This issue’s main section is taken up by Tamil poetry of ‘contemporaries.’ Except Devathachan, the rest of them had started their literary career either in the later nineties or in early 2000s. The real focus is on women poets. Emphasis starts right from the Sangam period. Dr KS Subramanian’s introductory article serves as the grand entry arch. The kind of acumen as revealed in his translations cannot be normally expected from academics. Luckily, Dr KS Subramanian does not belong to that clan.
The new breed of Tamil women poets writing today are neither feminists nor anti-male. Women’s poetry seems to have attained a kind of maturity and stability. Postures and stances which were the mark of the early feminists of the 90s are gone. Today, women’s poetry doesn’t necessarily bare the female physique to garner attention. We could have included more poets from the younger generation of women but we don’t have many translators who translate from Tamil. On the contrary, the translators from English to Tamil have increased to the size of a battalion.
Though there is a noticeable resurgence in little magazines in Tamil, only a few of them maintain the original intensity and devotion with which they were begun. As could be expected, their periodicity has always been a problem. A quarterly sometimes becomes an annual. And bi-annual turns into an occasional or miscellany. Virutcham, (Editor: Azhagiya Singer) originally began as a monthly, had recently published its 100th issue. There is a kind of die-hard attitude in the way the magazine is brought out. The newly launched literary magazine from Bengaluru is called Sittridhal which in Tamil means little magazine. Kombhu (Editor: Veyyil) seemed to be a haven for the younger writers but is defunct now. M Harikrishnan’s Manal Veedu somehow has been maintaining remarkable consistency in its periodicity. Thillai Murali’s monthly magazine for the arts, Adavi, is also maintaining its own style of continuity. Editor Konangi’s efforts in reviving his magazine Kalkuthirai is laudable. But the obvious fact can’t be missed: the missing avant-garde.
In the recent past, there are a lot of new comers in the short story arena – Guna Kandhasamy, Karthigai Pandian, Balsubramaniam Ponraj, Kali Dass, Thooyavan, Sriram, to name a few. But the present trend in the short story is not encouraging. If the writers are cutting a ‘slice of life’ they are not sure enough whether the slice is vertical or horizontal. Many new comers just isolate an incident – mostly realistic – and package it in everyday language, as if they are putting it in a container. The mode of writing is mainly realistic and in rare cases it could be the fantastic. When compared to the opus of masters of form and language of the previous generation – Mouni, La. Sa. Ramamirtham, Thi. Janakiraman, and Pudumaippithan – the short stories of the ‘contemporaries’ fall flat.
The present Tamil novel has not changed much. The “baggy monsters” still rule the roost. Most of the novels published in the last five years can be classified under the “traditional novel, the novel which raises no questions.”1
The Sri Lankan Tamil writers have in the recent past written novels which merit serious attention. Most of their works can be classified under semi-autobiographical fiction or bio fiction. They are the born out of the war and its fallout in Sri Lanka. Fiction writer Shoba Sakthi has already carved his own niche in fiction. His recent novel Box is a well-crafted novel. He proved his worth in his debut novel Gorilla. His compact short stories (3 collections) are a real treat and are aesthetically satisfying. Tamilini, a woman writer who was a former combatant, has left us (she passed away due to cancer) an incisive semi-autobiography, Koor Vaazhin Nizhalil (Under the Shadow of the Sharp Sword). It is a confession which registers the horrors of insurgent war. From what writer Tamilini has written, we understand that the common man bears the brunt of the war more than the combatants. Her book starts as a reminiscence after she was captured by the Sri Lankan army and incarcerated at the end of the war. (Tamilini’s book has been translated into the Sinhala language.) An equally important book is Guna Kaviyazhagan’s Appal Oru Nilam (A land Beyond). Based on the war in Sri Lanka, Thamil Nadhi, another women writer has published her semi-autobiographical fiction called Parthenium. It will be ideal to allocate an exclusive section to Sri Lankan Tamil Literature. Mention should be made to Anuk Arudpragasam’s The Story of a Brief Marriage. It is a narrative written in English. The novel’s action coincides with the last days of the Tamil struggle. The marriage takes place amidst the bombings and shelling. But the marriage lasts just for one day.
In the last ten odd years, translation has become an industry in Tamil. The Tamil reader who depends only on Tamil for reading world’s classics, is often taken for a ride. One classic example is the case of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in translation, which has the maximum number of mistakes. From the publisher’s declaration, we understand that it is a funded project. Luckily the Colombians do not know Tamil.
1. Michel Butor, The Novel as Research, pp1-7