For Raj de Condappa, a French national whose ancestors belonged to India, the shores of Kerala tell stories of yore. The love story of Pareekutty and Karuthamma fascinates him. There are scores of French citizens who discuss Thakazhi's `Chemmeen' as well as Madhavikutty's stories, thanks to Raj.
His publishing company, Kailash Editions, has published a translation of Thakazhi's `Chemmeen' into French `Chemmeen - un amour indien.' The book has been well received in France.
His company has also published other Malayalam works in French. These include those by Kamala Das (L'histoire de ma vie) and C. Radhakrishnan. It is the love for literature that has drawn him to the State. Raj is on the lookout for more Malayalam classics to publish in French. "It's my tribute to Malayali culture," says the publisher, who is also a hotelier.
Born in Puducherry, Ray was brought up in Vietnam. Well-versed in English, French, Vietnamese and Tamil, Raj finds a golden opportunity in publishing translated works. He owns a publishing venture in Hanoi.
Recalling his childhood days, he says, "Those were days of innocence." He was studying in a school in Vietnam when political trouble forced him to discontinue his studies. His father had French citizenship and the family shifted to France. He continued his studies there and later worked at a national library. "I discovered the world of books there," he recalls.
Later, his wanderlust took him to Nepal where he established a French bookstall in Kathmandu. After a few years, it was closed down as the Government did not renew the licence. His first love was India. Conceptualising a tourist resort in Puducherry was part of the manifestation of this love. "My ancestors belonged to Andhra Pradesh. But I belong to the planet earth, not India or France," he says.