Love Stands Alone  -  Selections from Tamil Sangam Poetry

Love Stands Alone - Selections from Tamil Sangam Poetry

Product ID: 29210

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Author: A R Venkatachalapathy
Translator(s)/ Editors(s): M. L. Thangappa/A R Venkatachalapathy
Publisher: Penguin/Viking
Year: 2010
Language: English
Pages: 256
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9780670084197


Composed at the turn of the Common Era, the ancient poems translated from classical Tamil in Love Stands Alone are breathtaking in their directness, subtle in their nuances and astonishingly contemporary in tone.

The poems fall under two broad themes: akam, the interior and puram, the exterior. The akam poems are concerned with love in all its varied situations: clandestine and illicit; conjugal happiness and infidelity; separation and union.

The puram poems encompass all other aspects of worldly life. They talk of wars and battlefields, the valour of warriors, the munificence of kings and chieftains, and the wisdom of bards. These timeless, marvellous poems succeed in engaging today’s readers with their acute rendering of the secular life of an ancient people.

Unlike earlier translations that have relied on medieval commentaries, M.L. Thangappa’s English translation is based on an original interpretation of the classics. This is the result of a lifetime’s immersion in teaching and translating classical Tamil poetry. The introduction by A.R. Venkatachalapathy situates classical Tamil poetry in its historical and cultural setting and evaluates its contribution to world literature.


The 160-old Poems in Love Stands Alone are often quite short, though there's enough going on in them to fill a chapter in a fat novel. Keeping the voice low, the tone level, they say the most heartbreaking or urgent, or joyful things. This is why we're still listening to them, our ear pricked, after 2000 years. Luckily for us, Thangappa translates several of the longer poems too. Reading them is like watching one of those folk performance in which women dance while balancing pots on their heads. You watch with your heart in you mouth, for one false step can bring the whole thing crashing down. But Thangappa carries it off again and again. More than once I caught myself whistling.

--- Arvind Krishna Mehrotra


Introduction: Tradition, Talent, Translation

1. Akam

2. Puran


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