Su. Krishnamurthy, who is also multilingual, has been aiming to promote Bengali literature among Tamils and vice versa.
When Kolkata-based Tamil writer Su. Krishnamurthy's autobiography was released a couple of years ago, he was busy translating the Tamil epic ‘Silappadhikaram' into Bengali. It took Krishnamurthy almost two years to finish the job with which the Sahitya Academy had entrusted him.
He had, however, already translated the epic into English, which was originally published by M.P. Birla Foundation, Kolkata, in 1996. According to the writer, this is being reprinted by Bharathi Puthakalayam, Chennai.
To the question, whether Bengali scholars approved of the translation, he replies, “There was no need for me to pass on the work to Bengali writers or scholars for their approval. Sahitya Academy knows me as a dependable translator in Bengali, because I had received the Sahitya Academy's Translation prize 20 years ago. It was for Indira Parthasarathy's ‘Kurudhippunal', the Academy's award winning novel. I have also translated Ashokamitran's ‘Appavin Sinekithar' which also won the Sahitya Academy award. National Book Trust has published my Bengali translation of Adhavan's short stories. I have also translated Ku. Chinnappa Bharathi's novels ‘Sangam' and ‘Daaham'. Hence, they are aware of my proficiency in Bengali language. Moreover, the experts in the Academy have scrutinised and approved my translation.”
The list of his works in Tamil, English and Bengali runs to nearly four pages of his autobiography. They include, among others, a book on Kamban by Justice S. Maharajan in Bengali and ‘Acharya Vani', a collection of Kanchi Mahaswami's speeches, delivered in the 1950s in Chennai and translated from English to Bengali. This has been published by Ved Bhavan, Kolkata.
Out of print
As for the translation of Tirukkural into Bengali, the writer had a different experience though. “I had, on my own, published the Bengali translation a decade ago. Unfortunately, it did not get the required publicity and therefore, did not have a satisfactory sale. It is now out of print. There was a request from the Tamil Nadu Government in 2008 to bring out my Bengali translation in pocket book size. The idea was to distribute it free to the Bengali tourists who visit Kanyakumari. I had prepared a CD and submitted it to the International Institute of Tamil Studies in February 2009. the book is yet see the light of the day,” says Krishnamurthy. “I am, however, confident that the Government of Tamil Nadu would bring out the publication soon” he adds.
‘Thisai Ettum', an organisation devoted to the promotion of translation of regional works, honoured Krishnamurthy when the award was first instituted in the year 2004, in Cuddalore. The number of his translated works has now touched 60.
“My autobiography – ‘Naan Kadanthu Vantha Paathai' – published by Bharathi Puthakalayam, was released in 2009, in which my original Tamil writing has been discussed in detail. A number of my Tamil short stories and essays on various subjects and issues has crossed 200.”
Krishnamurthy had received Ilakkiya Chinthanai award for enriching Tamil literature, more than once. His biographies on Premchand, Sarat Chandra, Easwar Chandra Vidhya Sagar and Kazi Nasrul Islam have been acclaimed as outstanding contribution to Tamil biographies.
As for the reception of his books in Tamil Nadu, the writer is happy that he has had rave reviews here. Many readers have taken the trouble of complimenting him either through letter or by phone. “I cannot express any general opinion about Tamil readers, except that there are quite a number of them interested in serious literature. Of course, there are such readers in Bengali, too.”
Besides the novels of writer-activist Mahasweta Devi, Krishnamurthy has done the translations of Sarat Chandra, Seershendu Mukhopadhyay, Maitreyi Devi, Jaya Mitra, Bibhutibhusan Bandhyopadhyay (Children's literature), Uma Prasad Mukhopadyay (Travelogue), Kamal Dasgupta, Pradeep Bhattacharya, Prafulla Roy, Sunil Gangopadhyay and many more. West Bengal Government has honoured Krishnamurthy with the Rabindranath Tagore Memorial Prize, while Kolkata Sarat Samithi and Nikhil Bharath Sangh Sahitya Sammelan also recognised his contribution with prestigious awards. Tiruppur Tamil Sangam had twice awarded him for his books, while Tamilnadu Progressive Writers Association had also honoured him for his translation of Mahasweta Devi's novel.
The very elite club ‘Rabi Baser,' which meets on a Sunday, has only Bengali intellectuals, politicians, businessmen, authors, as its members. Krishnamurthy is the only non-Bengali in the group, which is a rare distinction for a Tamil.
“Kolkata University is preparing the first ever Tamil-English-Bengali dictionary. The draft has been sent to me for vetting. I am at present engaged in this task,” he says in all humility. As for his forthcoming book, Krishnamurthy has just completed the Bengali poet, Michael Madhusoodhan Dutt's literary biography in Tamil. “I hope it will released in the ensuing Chennai Book Fair!” says a confident Krishnamurthy.
Krishnamurthy migrated to Kolkata in the early 1950s, while he was serving the A.G's office, after short stints as lecturer in the colleges at Pudukottai and Vijayawada. Krishnamurthy knows German, besides Hindi, Bengali, Sanskrit, English and Tamil.
Krishnamurthy, who celebrated his 82nd birthday quietly last week, is very active and feels happy doing what little he can to promote Bengali literature among Tamils and Tamil classics among Bengalis.