There was a time when Chukkum Gekkum, the Malayalam translation of popular Russian children’s classic Chuk and Gek by Arkady Gaidar, held sway over children’s imagination in Kerala.
New generation children may not know the adventurous Chuk and Gek, whose images, a generation ago, came printed on heavy glossy paper and in vibrant colours.
Popularity of the Malayalam and English translations of Russian classics may have dipped over the last two decades but efforts are on to expose the new generation to such popular works from the past.
Mathrubhumi Books will soon bring out Soviet Nattile Balakathakalum Nadodikathakalum spread over two volumes and around 2,000 pages. It will have nearly 310 stories.
K. Sreekumar, who has retold the stories, said the aim was to come out with a treasured collection of Russian short stories. “I wanted to present a cross-section of Russian literary works through this initiative. The initial response has been positive. Care has been taken to ensure top-class multi-colour printing. There are over 100 colourful illustrations,” he said.
Thiruvananthapuram-based Russian Cultural Centre (earlier House of Soviet Culture) will open a library with a collection of Russian works of great literary distinction.
Ratheesh C. Nair, Honorary Consul for Russian Federation and Director of the Russian Cultural Centre, said the centre also had plans to renew publication of its Noyaya Vesna (New Spring), a quarterly magazine, after a gap of five years.
“Each edition will have a children’s tale, and we plan to bring out a compilation of these stories later. The new library will be launched in association with Russkiy Mir Foundation. We will try to bring back as many books as possible from those sold and taken to places like Madras, Gujarat and Calcutta after the House of Soviet Culture was closed in 1991,” he said.
T. Jayachandran of CICC Books recalled that publishing houses like Prabhat Book House used to receive thousands of books from the erstwhile Soviet Union between the mid-50s and late 70s. “The books were mostly those extolling the virtues of the Soviet government and its policies. For Rs. 2 we could own colourfully printed books with attractive illustrations in glossy paper. I even remember waiting for Soviet Nadu (Malayalam translation of Soviet Land). It used to print on only one side of a page and most of the writers in those days used to pen their ideas on the blank side of the page,” he said.