Lately, environmentalism and books on the environment have become mainstream. Popular authors such as Amitav Ghosh, Ramachandra Guha, and Madhav Gadgil have immensely contributed to it with their impactful writings. Moreover, literary festivals feature panel discussions on conservation and the environment each year.
But not many are aware that India has a rich history of regional literature on the environment. The Chipko Movement, the Silent Valley Protests, and the Narmada Bachao Andolan have greatly contributed to it. There have been writers and poets including Sambalpuri poet and writer Haldhar Nag, Kannada poet Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre, and Malayali poet and activist Sugathakumari. Unfortunately, most of them have remained relatively obscure. The books are limited to the original language and rarely translated.
All through the last quarter, I have shared recommendations for books on the environment through Blogchatter’s #CauseAChatter Environment Talks series. I am continuing the series this quarter since there are so many books still out there waiting to be discussed.
During my research, I came across numerous books that were either limited to the language they were originally published in or are out of print. Very few of them are available in English. I do wish we have better access to these gems. Today I share recommendations on a few pieces of translated literature that are a must-read.
Dweepa: Island by Na D’Souza,
Susheela Punitha (Translator)
Countless villages submerged. Loss of lifestyle. Loss of community. The dark side of development that is often considered collateral damage. Dweepa by N.A. D’Souza is a short fiction of about 130 pages about the displacement of farmers due to the construction of a hydroelectric project.
First published in a weekly in 1970 and then translated from Kannada by Susheela Punitha, the novella focuses on the construction of the Linganamakki dam on River Sharavathi in Malnad region. The government apathy, the greedy officials, and above all, the after-effects.
The Book of the Hunter (Byadhkhanda) by Mahasweta Devi,
Mandira Sengupta (Translator), Sagaree Sengupta (Translator)
Writer and activist Mahasweta Devi’s writings have always been the voice of the voiceless. Set in sixteenth-century medieval Bengal and drawing on the life of the great medieval poet Kabikankan Mukundaram Chakrabarti, the Book of the Hunter not only depicts the socio-political history of the times. But also the impact of settlements and clearing of forests on the tribals. Particularly the local hunter tribes, the Shabars.
Published in the early 90s in Bengali, the book borrows its name from Byadhkhanda — the Book of the Hunter, a section from the epic poem Abhayamanga by Mukundaram. It follows the contrasting lives of two couples – a Brahman and a Shabar. The book is a stark look at the effect of unethical and unchecked urbanization on indigenous communities.India & The Environment: Must-Read Translated Literature #CauseAChatter #EnvironmentalTalks #BookChatter @blogchatter #BohoPonderings Click To Tweet
Softly Dies a Lake (Kolleti Jaadalu)
by Akkineni Kutumbarao, Vasanth Kannabiran (Translator)
The story of a lake. The story of people whose lives are connected to it. And true to its name, a story of commercialization and how greed is continuing to destroy the delicate balance between humans and nature.
Narrated through the eyes of a five-year-old Seenu, Softly Dies a Lake (Kolleti Jaadalu) by Akkineni Kutumbarao brings to life the trials and tribulations of villagers whose lives are woven inseparably with Kolleru, one of India’s largest freshwater lakes located in Andhra Pradesh. Veteran feminist rights activist and writer, Vasanth Kannabiran has translated this brutally honest book from Telugu seamlessly.
The Upheaval (Acchev) by Pundalik N. Naik
Vidya Pai (Translator)
It is pretty evident that industrialization ends up stripping the land of its precious flora and fauna. More so in the case of mining. On top of that, the indigenous culture is severely impacted as the mode of occupation changes.
Set in Ponda district in north Goa, The Upheaval (Acchev) by Pundalik N. Naik details how iron ore mining contaminated the Mandovi and the village Kolamba. Published in 1977, it is the first novel in Konkani to be translated into English.
I hope my recommendations help you on the journey of environmental awareness. Stay tuned as I would be sharing more recommendations on a range of topics under Environmental Talks. Do you have a recommendation for similar books? I would love to check them out. Do share in the comments below.India & The Environment: Must-Read Translated Literature #CauseAChatter @CindyAnnDSilva @nooranand @Voxboxclub @journey_matters #BlogaberryDazzle #BohoPonderings Click To Tweet
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