Introducing SuRaa, The tale of a Tamarind tree & JJ

I had not the slightest clue who this man was or about the book that is mentioned, till I saw it on Sen’s blogsite. The few comments on the book were arresting and I looked up the volume on Amazon. Seeing that a second hand version was available, I ordered it. When it arrived, I was a little perturbed; it was a thin yellowing Penguin volume from India, smell and all. With some trepidation I started reading it. I realized soon that the translation from Tamil to English had made the prose very formal and laborious, and I got stuck in the middle. I hope the other translations (Hindi, Hebrew & Malayalam) are better.

But all the time, I saw a similarity in style to RK Narayanan – now here was somebody who wrote about India, Indian villages and the simple common man, around the same time. I was soon caught up with fascination. The third and fourth quarters of the book were brilliant, beautiful studies of the human mind – amongst the many simple souls one could discern the selfish man, the opportune man and the violent man too, all seen by the silent tamarind tree, until its untimely death..

Ramaswamy started writing by translating Takazhi’s books Chemmeen and Thottiyude makan into Tamil. M Govindan & John Abraham were his friends for life, till he died at 74, in 2005. He studied Malayalam & English at Kottayam, even though his works were in Tamil (he learnt Tamil all by himself!)!! Under the pseudonym Pasuvayyah, he wrote many a poem, to be awarded the Kumaranasan award. It is even said that he viewed Tamilians with a Malayalam viewpoint!!

Listen to what he once said, "I want my criticism to help readers to identify quality writing, and lead them to condemn my own writing if it does not meet those standards."

I am now looking forward to reading his great JJ – Some jottings. My friend Ganesan outsourced the task I entrusted upon him, to his beloved wife, who turned Gangarams on MG road upside down and browbeat the staff no end to locate this very last copy they had. Thanks a ton, Jaysree…In the meantime; I had even contacted the translator, who offered to help if I failed to locate a copy. Thanks, Ventakachalapathy, I found one!!

JJ.: Some Jottings was a major watershed, a rupture in the narrative tradition of Tamil fiction. Almost every reader remembers the shock and ecstasy the novel caused on its first reading. The clever way in which the novel is structured, almost a Kunstlerroman, complete with notes and appendices of the fictional Malayalam writer, left readers gasping. Of course, in this entire make-believe, the author has probably strewn around banana skins, chuckling as readers and critics step on them. The detailed depiction of the Malayalam literary world, while being rather novel, simultaneously triggered the search for Tamil parallels. Unfortunately, many readers got lost in this wild-goose chase, missing the import of the novel. This was often followed by (mis)identifying themselves ideologically with one or the other character; the progressives with Mullaikkal Madhavan Nair, Tamil enthusiasts with Thamaraikkani, women writers with Chittukkuruvi and so on. Sundara Ramaswamy's masterful parody and caricature only added to this effect. However, it is a loss to read the novel at this level alone. It is nothing less than a thoroughgoing critique of Tamil culture and society and by extension, much more. With the pretext of talking about the Malayalam literary world, the novel delves into a deep introspection of Tamil culture

A page on his life and a very nice memoir by his grandson..

Some day, I hope you guys will also get to read his works…

By the way, I must tell you that the book was published by an organization called Katha, who also planted two trees to replace the tree that was used to make the paper for my book and to provide me reading pleasure…Katha is an extraordinary organization, you may even consider becoming part of it….

Also I am taking up the tag from Nanditha

5th paragraph of page 123 from the book JJ – Some jottings by Suraa

Unfortunately it has only two para’s!!! So I will do the second

Though I have dreamt on many occasions, no dream was ever like this. I sought out books on interpreting dreams. They didn’t help. When explanations for waking moments are so confused, need anything be said about dreams? I reflect within myself. Some things appear to be clear. But I have doubts about what appears so. I thought of preserving the dream. That alone was firm and clear.

Now that was powerful prose, I do not yet have full understanding of the book, Once I have completed it I will update this with some ‘post blog publishing’ jottings…

Pictures - Thanks to Sen, Tamilnation


Anonymous said…
I font is really tiny towards the end of the post and I can hardly read it.
Maddy said…
hope it is ok now!!!
Nanditha Prabhu said…
Maddy sir,
i should get my hands on oru pulimarattinte katha.
i read the review on sen`s blogsite too. I will surely go for it.
diyadear said…
the new template is good.. matches the clasic, artistic kinda post.. i was reminded of the documentary n tributes seen earlier..
Maddy said…
oru pulimaram is a slight drag on the second quarter..otherwise great. i am onto JJ now..

Diya - thanks, are you saying that you saw a documentary on Suraa? where was that?
AdamZ said…
Hi Maddy,

I am AdamZ !!

Nice to see you here & Best wishes !