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English readers can now meet Kalki’s Sivakami

When journalist, author and translator Pavithra Srinivasan was as young as 12, she was acquainted with author Kalki and took no time to fall head-over-heels in love with his works. Since then, she has not only gone on to read almost all of the celebrated author’s works, but also embarked on a field trip across the State, visiting all the places that have been mentioned in his book.

With such adoration for an author, it came as no surprise when Pavithra released her translated English version of Kalki’s 1944 historical novel Sivakamiyin Sabadham – 1: Paranjyothi’s Journey, on Sunday, which marked the author’s birth anniversary.

“Many people have told me that they’ve heard so much about the books and characters, but are not able to read it because they don’t know Tamil. Since I’m lucky enough to know both Tamil and English, I thought they might as well relish a classic,” said Pavithra at a function that was held at the C P Art Centre. “I think I had to do it because Kalki is one of those people who everyone has heard of, but not many are acquainted with all of his works,” she added.

Then went on to say that apart from the author’s  Ponniyin Selvan which she is currently in the process of translating, she also plans to translate the other three parts of the Sivakamiyin Sabadham  series soon. Speaking about her choice of book out of Kalki’s many other novels, Pavithra admitted that Sivakamiyin Sabadham is one of those books that are popular, but yet understated. “The book is more about the characterisation and ends on a not-very-happy note. But there’s a lot of beauty in it, even in the way the heroine is described – she is a very complex character,” the author said.

Tamil writer Ashokamithran, who released the book after describing Kalki as a “master narrator” and Sivakamiyin Sabadham as “a well-rounded novel”, said that the book must not be compared with the original. “It’s difficult to translate a book like this. So you shouldn’t compare it with the Tamil version. You should just enjoy the literary experience,” he said.

Bharatanatyam dancer Srikala Bharath, who received the first copy of the book, promised to put up a recital based on the book by next December. Gitanjali B, founder of Helios Books, said this book was an attempt to introduce Kalki to English readers in a more beautiful way. “Our review panel felt that the available translations were too literal,” she added. A panel discussion on Kalki’s works and the relevance of their translations in today’s world was also held.