Monday, June 09, 2008

It's become very rare in recent times for me to see a book I haven't heard of before and buy it - if I see a new book, I prefer to go back to the net, read reviews, ponder over it for a bit, then decide whether it's worth it.

A couple of weeks, back, though, I bought a book - first-hand - that I hadn't heard of before. Not only was the book new, I'd never heard of the publisher either. This book was The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction.



This was a translated collection of stories and novellas by popular 'pulp' writers in Tamil, along with reproductions of book covers and some Q&A sessions answered by these same popular writers. Genres included romance, sci-fi, thrillers, and lots of detective fiction. But what sold me at first sight was the blurb on the back cover:

MAD SCIENTISTS!
HARD-BOILED DETECTIVES!
VENGEFUL GODDESSES!
MURDEROUS ROBOTS!
SCANDALOUS STARLETS!
DRUG-FUELED LOVE AFFAIRS!

Who wouldn't want to buy a book like that? :)

I bought it and devoured the book in about 4 days. The stories are fairly good, though necessarily short and abruptly-ended. The whole thing leaves you wanting more - if only Blaft would publish full-length novels by these guys, showcasing their skill better. I for one would jump to buy anything by Indra Sounder Rajan or Pattukkottai Prabakar, based on their plotlines and genres as revealed by this book.

The translation is all done by one person, Pritham Chakravarthy, which means that while the quality is good, there's a sense of sameness around the stories, as if they were all written by one person. Not that there's anything wrong with that person - quirks of Tamil street language do come through. Did you know that 'Nashik Paper' is Tamil slang for money, because the Indian current printing press is in Nashik?

In an ideal world, this would be the beginning of a trend. Why do the Indian translation publishers (Katha and their ilk) focus on the literary fiction alone? How many more copies would they sell, and how many more people would be interested, in reading fun, fast, quirky stuff like this? Every reader of Indian-language fiction I know reads a lot of pulp stuff - whether as serialized novels in newspapers, or stories in Manohar Kahaniyan, or even the actual pulp-paper printed Surendra Mohan Pathak books - vastly more than they read serious lit stuff. It's true for *every* Indian language, not just Hindi or Tamil.

Blaft, here's a deal - if you'll publish more translated pulp fiction, I'll be first in line to buy it. If it's in affordable editions, I'll even get copies for my friends. Heck, if you're interested, I'll even join in and translate Hindi pulp for you - how's that?

9 comments:

Rakesh said...

Hi Sudarshan...

You're on!

We do have plans to release a longer novel of Indra Soundar Rajan's, maybe early next year...

And we'd very much like to do a Hindi pulp book. Are you an expert on the genre, could you recommend some authors/titles?

Sudarshan said...

Hi Rakesh,
Though I'm not an expert on the topic - always been rather bewildered by the variety of names at Railway station bookstalls - the first name that comes to mind is Surender Mohan Pathak. He's almost synonymous with the genre today. Ved Prakash Sharma and Anil Mohan are other writers that seem to be popular.
I've asked around to other friends who do have more of an interest, though, and we should have a better list in a day or two. Could you post some contact info, if you're serious about the translation offer? (I know I am!)

Matter Mahadevan said...

Belated birthday wishes dude. Have read a lot of these Tamil short story type novels while traveling btw Madras and New Delhi.

A good write-up as usual.

Harish Kumar said...

Saw this book in LM and wanted to take it. Now I will.

Anonymous said...

Rakesh hasn't responded but I'm serious - do you think you could translate Ved Prakash or Surendra's novels without loosing the grip of the novel all through ?? you seem confident - is there a contact No..??

Anuj

Carol Hurley said...

Hi- A friend gave me Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction and now I'm dying to find some other translated works by these authors-especially Moonlight Agencies stories (P. Prabakar)andEagle Eye Detective Agency (Subha). I don't feel like going back to American writers now that I've read these Indian writers. Hurry up and translate more for us!!!

Manali said...

I bought this today and it's the same with me - It's actually the first time I purchased a book I hadn't heard about and that wasn't also pirated or second hand! Eager to read it :)

Viagra said...

I will definitely read this book!

Elliott Broidy said...

Thanks for the review!