German and Malayalam literary figures highlighted the cultural links between the two languages
‘Casa Julia' was buzzing with literary reminiscences and enlightening interactions recently. The quaint little building that houses the Goethe Zentrum played host to eminent literary personalities from Germany and Kerala.
Organised jointly by the Zentrum and Kerala State Institute of Children's Literature, the interactive session introduced Heinz Arnold, Christiane Arnold and Martin Kaempchen to the audience. For some scholars present at the occasion, it was both unreal and unforgettable as they were meeting Proffessor Heinz Arnold, a revered and sought-after name in German literary criticism.
An expert, especially on post-war German literature, Arnold recently edited and updated ‘Kindler Lexicon,' the 18-volume literary lexicon in German. Christiane Arnold, a librarian and scholar, is the editor of its online version.
Author and translator, Martin Kaempchen is the cultural correspondent of the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Having published nearly 50 books, translated and anthologised from writings on India, Kaempchen has edited an anthology of India's regional literature published by the prestigious ‘die horen.' As someone living in Shantiniketan for the past 35 years, Kaempchen has earnest observations about India and Indian literature.
What made the occasion more special was the unassuming presence of Paul Zacharia who moderated the meeting. Lacing it with down-to-earth humour and keeping his words to the minimum, Zacharia encouraged an open and active participation from the enthusiastic audience.
He also introduced journalist, Germany-based author and publisher Jose Punnamparambil who has also translated a story by Zacharia into German. In fact, the story has been included in the anthology of India's regional literature edited by Kaempchen.
As the session progressed, it became clear that the three German guests, Punnamprambil and Zacharia shared a camaraderie brought on by their collaborative efforts and their love for literature, in general. It was the same enthusiasm that came through the frank interaction with the audience.
In addition to Malayalam poets Vinayachandran and Rosemary, the audience had eager members keen on knowing about translation, language, the importance Germans gave to Indian literature and so on.
Rosemary's question on children's literature and fairy tales helped the Germans throw light on the rich tradition of children's writing in Germany. The reference to the renowned Grimm Brothers was particularly interesting as readers all over the world are familiar with their fairy tales.
Kaempchen made insightful observations on the difference in poetic sensibilities in Germany and India, in response to Zacharia's question. As a scholar and translator of Rabindranath Tagore's poetry, Kaempchen felt that while Tagore and his school of poets drew his subjects from religion, contemporary German poetry was more existential and direct.
At various points, the discussion also drew the audiences' attention to the sheer hard work and detail that has gone into the ‘Kindler Lexicon.' It was heartening to note that Indian literature, including modern Malayalam literature, has been represented quite satisfactorily in the encyclopaedia.
As the session drew to a close, one had more reasons to believe in the strong cultural links between Germany and Kerala.ANUPAMA RAJU