Translations from South Asia are making their marks in the USA
Jayant Kaikini’s story collection No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories won the 2021 National Translation Award in Prose while Nammāḻvār’s poetry volume Endless Song secured the 2021 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize. Announced on October 16, both the awards are given by The American Literary Translators Association.
According to the judges “No Presents Please deserves all the presents for its intimate and life-affirming portrayal of ordinary people in Mumbai.” The judges recognised Endless Song as one of India’s most enduring Bhakti poetic texts, exclaiming how “this important text now sings to us in the English-speaking world as well.”
Published in the USA by Catapult, No Presents Please is translated from the Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana. Kaikini’s collection also won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2018.
On the other hand, Endless Song is translated from the Tamil by Archana Venkatesan and published by Penguin Random House India.
There are sixteen stories in No Present Please, written over thirty years, spanning from 1986 to 2006. Mumbai comes alive in all its dimensions in these stories, especially the everyday lives of common people. Jayant Kaikini is an Indian poet, fiction writer, playwright and a lyricist in Kannada cinema. Tejaswini Niranjana, the translator of the book, is a cultural theorist and translator. She is the author of Siting Translation: History, Post- Structuralism and the Colonial Context, and several other academic books.
Nammāḻvār is one of the twelve alvar saints of Tamil Nadu, India, who are known for their affiliation to the Vaishnava. Over the course of 1,102 intricately wrought stanzas, the 9th-century Tamil poet, sings of his dizzying, ecstatic love for the always-present, yet always-elusive divine. Archana Venkatesan, the translator of Endless Song, is a Professor of Religious Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Davis. She studies text, visuality, and performance in the Tamil language in South India, with a focus on the early-medieval period. Her translations are inspired by extensive fieldwork in the temples of Tamil Nadu, where Tamil devotional poetry continues to be read, recited, and relished, according to the ALTA website.