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:


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?