A pioneer in translating classics

The veteran writer considers himself to be the member of a literary school which freed Malayalam literature from Sanskrit influence. In a chat with Ignatius Pereira

ONE DAY, sixty-five years ago when the IV Form students of the Prakulam High School near Kollam were listening in rapt attention to an interesting English class on Oliver Goldsmith's `Vicar of Wakefield', one of the students was found lost in thought and scribbling something on a piece of paper.

That student was Thirunellur Karunakaran; the teacher, Narayana Pillai, immediately rushed towards him to admonish him for remaining oblivious to what was being taught. But the teacher was taken aback.

Young Karunakaran was engaged in translating the `Vicar of Wakefield' into Malayalam.

The teacher found the scribbled translation an excellent work and encouraged the student to go ahead. That was the humble beginning through which Thirunellur Karunakaran emerged as a great personality in the field of Malayalam literature.

The translation, which began in the classroom, soon came to fruition as `Samagamam' and was published as his first work. Well-known literary works followed.

His translation of Kalidasan's `Megha Sandesham' is widely acclaimed as a unique piece of work in Malayalam. His collection of poems `Thiranjedutha Kavithakal' won him the Vayalar Award.

He is also a recipient of the Asan Prize. When all the earlier translations of `Megha Sandesham' maintained the original Sanskrit tinge, Thirunellur Karunakaran's translation proved different for it emphasised a fine Malayalam-Dravidian orientation.

On completion of post-graduation from the University College in 1954, he began working as a lecturer at the Arts College, Thiruvananthapuram and in 1957 joined the Malayalam Department of the University College.

He retired as professor from the college in 1975 and went on to become a member of the Kerala Public Service Commission from 1975 to 1981. He considered himself member of a literary school that believed in relieving Malayalam literature from the influence of Sanskrit. He was part of a triumvirate to promote progress writing in Kerala and one who advocated that Communist literature in Malayalam deserves a change from Russian influence.

At present, Thirunellur Karunakaran, who turned octogenarian on October 8, is engrossed in completing a lengthy poem `Sita.'

He said that his `Sita' will be making a psychological analyses on the human character of Lord Rama and Sita.

"The message I intend to convey is the need to oppose and expose the avatar culture being spread in the country in the name of Sri Ram and Indian culture", he said. His `Sita' is already halfway through and will be completed soon.

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