Echoes of the Veena

 Winner of the Valley of Words Award 2019 for translation

This collection of eighteen stories in English translation is vintage Chudamani. The stories explore a variety of themes, such as the psychological landscape of a girl who had to stop going to school, of the insecurity of a mother who sucks the life out of her child, of a deserted woman who stands tall with her self-respect intact, of the loneliness of a forgotten actor of yester-years. Two stories tell the tales of two exceptional musicians (both dead) and their wives; but the likeness ends there. Two stories speak of two fathers and their daughters; but the similarity ends there. In the midst of simple, straightforward narration, the master storyteller makes a sharp, ironic comment on social barriers and taboos.  

Chudamani understood children, she understood persons with disabilities; she understood men too. But many of her stories centre around the woman with her anxieties in the role of a wife, sister or mother. She tells us: this is how She is, She feels, and She lives and struggles. Chudamani does not judge; nor does she say that the woman is perfect. 


The stories in this collection, like all her stories, are capable of touching the life of many. Stories are supposed to do that. It is not possible for all but that Chudamani is able to do it with her stories is a magic of her own that she has mastered.
AMBAI, Writer 

The stories are marked by a sense of melancholy and rarely having a happy ending . . . Chudamani has a very simple yet hard-hitting language in her work. The stories are told from the perspective of the characters themselves, incorporating their feelings and prejudices, blaming no one but absolving no one, either.
P.S. NISSIM, The New Indian Express 

The stories are sparse of words, dialogues liven the story with many voices. Each story hits you—you are barely out of the vivid canvas of one story and unready to move onto the next… She describes the human condition skilfully, moving on with sympathy for one character to sympathy for another. This is a gem of a book—the perfect gift to buy for a friend. The translation is superb. Never once does Chudamani’s voice falter— not that it did in the original, but that it continues to be steady in the translation is a tribute to the skill or passion or both of the translator.
The Book Review 


R. CHUDAMANI

R. CHUDAMANI (1931–2010) was a prolific writer in Tamil and English. Sitting in her room, from where she could see a Nagalinga tree, she wrote with empathy about a wide spectrum of issues concerning women, children and men. Though keeping a low profile, she made a niche for herself in the Tamil literary world through her sensitive portrayal of people around her. She won several literary awards, such as the Kalaimagal Silver Jubilee Award, the Ananda Vikatan Prize, the Ilakkia Chintanai (short story of the month) Award, the Bombay Tamil Sangam Silver Jubilee Prize and the State Government Award. She has 32 volumes of fiction to her credit. These include novels, plays and short story collections. She bequeathed all her property to three charities. 

Based on her seven short stories (including three from this collection), the Madras Players in 2016 staged a play titled Chudamani. The continued success and the overwhelming response to this play from young and old is testimony to her universal appeal. 

PRABHA
SRIDEVAN

PRABHA SRIDEVAN is a former judge of the Madras High Court (2000–2010) and the former chairperson of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (2011–2013). Her judgments have dealt, among other things, with the right to freedom of speech, protection of water bodies, protection of heritage buildings, rights of the oppressed classes, rights of persons with disabilities, right to information, right to education, rights of children, gender equality, mental health, the economic worth of a homemaker’s work, compulsory licensing of a cancer drug, and challenge by Novartis to India’s Patent Act. She writes regularly in English and Tamil on issues of law and life. Seeing in the Dark (OUP, 2015), a collection of short stories by Chudamani, was her first work of translation. This is her second.

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