Author: Shivarama Karanth
Publisher: Sahitya Akademi
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8126010657
A saga spanning three generations, Merali Mannige begins in mid-nineteenth century with the story of a poor Brahmin family in coastal Karnataka. Winds of colonial modernity bring about sweeping changes in this tradition-bound community. The English-educated second generation loses its links with the land. Unemployment haunts the third generation which wanders to cities in search of a living. Karanth’s alchemy turns this women-centred narrative of struggle and survival into a golden classic imbued with the smells and colours of rain, earth and sea.
Karanth’s commitment to the region is manifest in his use of the Dakshina Kannada dialect which renders his narrative authentic. It is for this reason that Karanth provided a glossary of over 330 words, from the Dakshina Kannada dialect to Standard Kannada, when the novel was first published in 1941. Since Karnataka was not unified as one linguistic state until 1956, and Kannada was still in the process of standardisation, he must have felt the need to provide a glossary to his readers.
However, translating the text for a non-Kannada, but English-knowing, post-Rushdie generation today, we have not given a separate glossary either as footnotes or end-notes. Instead, we have offered a text that explains itself in context. As we believe that the narrative voice of the text carries the burden of meaning as much as the dialectal words referring to culture-specific facts and notions, we have striven for a larger commitment to reproducing the tone and structure of the speech rhythms of the Kannada narrative, invoking Raja Rao’s brand of literalism, so successfully deployed in his Indian English novel Kanthapura, way back in 1939.
PADMA RAMACHANDRA SHARMA is a teacher and a well-known Kannada translator. She has received the Katha and Sahitya Akademi awards for her translations Kuvempu’s classic, Kambara’s folk narrative and Vaidehi’s stories figure prominently among her English translations.