Translation Books

Ripples of rebellion: Review of Neela Padmanabhan’s ‘Generations’

The story picks up pace after the first 100 pages. In the initial pages, the novelist details the contours of the primary family, the community, the village, the neighbourhood, and the dominant values of the society in which the protagonist Diravi is to grow up. It’s a bildungsroman of sorts. The young Diravi is a passive receptacle of stories of the past from his paternal grandmother, Unnamalai Aachi. It is only when he rejects received knowledge and attempts to script a new way of living for his sister that the story begins to pulsate, and then it leaves you devastated in the rather hurried end.

The descriptive parts stand out for their simplicity and rawness. The village, its ponds, fields, huts and bigger homes, its gossip-mongers and Samaritans — all have a visual realness.

The plot weaves around the changing times of three generations of the ‘Chettis of Eraniyal town’ in Tamil Nadu. What dominates the narrative is the tragedy of a young bride, Diravi’s sister Nagu, who is capriciously returned home and neither the village elders nor the village deity is able to give her justice. It is left to young Diravi to convince his parents to let his sister remarry to prove a point to the man who abandoned her. The overall idea of how small acts of individual effort contribute to societal transformation gives credibility to this story written by a Sahitya Akademi awardee.

Meanwhile, what is wrong with our publishing houses that they allow so many errors to go unchecked? One sentence in this book reads: “It was the third day or what not.” A character in the story is described as “distance and aloof”. Another sentence reads: “The son’s voice was heard all over stacking error street.”

Seldom do books and writers get a second chance. Translated by acclaimed writer, Ka. Naa. Subramaniam, and first published in 1997 by Macmillan, Generations gets its rare second go because of the Translation Initiative of Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation. Given this privilege, it’s difficult to comprehend these slovenly lapses. The power of Neela Padmanabhan’s storytelling style, however, carries the reader through.

Generations; Neela Padmanabhan, trs Ka. Naa. Subramaniam, Niyogi Books, ₹399

The writer, a Sahitya Akademi translation award winner, teaches English at Christ University, Bengaluru.

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2021 6:34:47 AM |

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