I first read about "Tamil Pulp Fiction" few months back in Chennai Metblogs. My first impression obviously was that it must be cheap Tamil short stories or novels translated into English. I dismissed it with the disdain of some one who had never read a good Tamil novel completely. Little did I know that the last week or so would have me reading the very same compilation non-stop, each story making me eager for more!
What got me interested this time was this: Two weeks back, one of my friends at work approached me with a sly grin and said he was reading a story with my name. Hurricane Vaij! I was immediately hooked and begged to borrow the book from him. I didn't realise it would turn out to be the one I had brushed off sometime back - "Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction", a compilation of nineteen selected Tamil short stories translated into English.
Generally, the term pulp fiction is used for stories printed on cheap recycled paper. So it's the paper that is cheap and not the stories themselves! But somehow, the term seems to have inherited that trait as well!
This is the cover of the book. Does it look sleazy? But that's how typical low-priced Tamil story books are illustrated. So perhaps it is appropriate for this book as well since it's a collection of those stories.
I must say I really enjoyed reading most of these stories. They are as entertaining and masala full as any of your English ones. Yes, they are not too "literary" literary but hey, that's exactly why this book was published according to the translator's note. Quoting her "this book is an attempt to claim the status of literature for a huge body of writing that had rarely if ever made it into an academic library, despite having been produced for nearly a century." So there, if Mills and Boons deserves its respect, so does Tamil Pulp Fiction.
Another passage from the translator's note that is interesting to read is the glimpse she provides into the work she had to put in to get those stories translated. Pritham K Chakravarthy says "I spent a year searching through library records for the most popular books, going on wild travels to strange book houses and far-flung homes of the many different authors, artists, and publishers, taking many crazy bus journeys and visiting many coffee houses, and doing a kind of pleasure reading I realized I had been badly missing for the past thirty years."
Sounds interesting, right? Maybe you should pick up a copy and give it a try. I particularly liked the story (no, not Hurricane Vaij! ;) ) "The Rebirth of Jeeva", originally written by Indra Soundar Rajan. I just loved it actually. I am definitely planning to buy some novels by this author (Tam version) the next time I am in Chennai. I need to sharpen my Tam reading skills a bit though!
And of course, kudos and thank you to Pritham Chakravarthy and Rakesh Khanna (the editor) for their work on this book.