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I started learning Tamil several years ago and the question that I was invariably asked was, Why do you want to learn Tamil What is your goal Well, I had to come up with something, so I said, I want to read Ponniyin Selvan I have still not read it in Tamil and I may never get there but thanks to the efforts of C.V Karthik Narayan I have been able to read this in English This truly was a labour of love for this man This guy is an engineer with a day job, not a professional translator, and he undertook the task of translating this 2,000 page epic into English out of his sheer love for it For my non Tamil GR friends, Ponniyin Selvan is Tamil historical epic much loved by the Tamils The work is a prequel to the reign of a man lauded today as one of the greatest kings of the Chozha empire, Rajaraja Chozha If you don t know what the term Chozha empire refers to, well, before reading this I didn t either It was an empire that had its start in the territory of what is today the state of Tamil Nadu in the south east of India and lasted from CE 848 to 1279 Its greatest reach was under Rajaraja Chozha and his son, Rajendra Chozha Kalki, the author of Ponniyin Selvan took known historical facts and wove this epic around them At its heart is a succession crisis and a conspiracy to overthrow the Chozha empire, but it also has twins separated at birth, substituted babies, femme fatales, doppelgangers, cyclones and massive flooding on the scale of Hurricane Harvey It has valiant warriors and star crossed lovers And all of it set against a backdrop of tropical India and exotic Hindu ceremonies What can you ask for Now this is why I love the internet Without the marvel of internet shopping and ebooks, I would never have been able to get my grubby hands on this work, published and distributed in India If you want to read it, and I would highly recommend it, the easiest way to get hold of it is in ebook format I use Kobo not Kindle and the links are here The First Floods Ponniyin Selvan 1 The Cylone Ponniyin Selvan 2 The Killer Sword Ponniyin Selvan 3 The Crown Ponniyin Selvan 4 The Pinnacle of Sacrifice Part 1 Ponniyin Selvan 5.1 The Pinnacle of Sacrifice Part 2 Ponniyin Selvan 5.2 You should be able to find the books on Kindle if you swing that way A note about pronunciation The term Chozha is not pronounced Chaws ha The zh together represents a sound halfway between an l and an r That is why Cho la is the other common approximation To make the zh sound, you stick your tongue to the top of your palate but not all the way it must not touch the top but be a smidge off Then go la Good luck, after three plus years, I still can t do it properly. , M S . When the elders in home told we would read this all night It s super good I scoffed and said yeah sure Fast forward ten years I found myself up till sunrise, reading up on the schemes of Nandhini and bravado of Vandhiyathevan Yes, the tamil is difficult to being with, but it s definitely worth it As someone who is homesick, reading about Tanjore, where one half of my family is from, with vivid descriptions about the culture and people was pure bliss. When you start a classic, you are silently praying you are not disappointed If it is the first part of 5 part series, then it becomes tougher since it may be of context than content Here is a book that checks all the boxes and managed to make me steal pages over coffee breaks Kalki s Ponniyin Selvan part 1 is a smooth and engaging read that almost inspired me to write this review in influenced tamil prose Part 1 of this historical fiction introduces the characters and reveals strands of the spider web of conspiracies against the throne of Chozha kingdom under Sundara Chozhan Narrated through the story of Vandhiyathevan, a brave go getter messenger of the crown prince, the dangers he face on his way to deliver the messages to the king and the princess and the breezy romance with the princess forms the first part.It also explores the tension between shivites and vaishnavites of the time and touches upon the history lessons of the battle for the deccan peninsula between Chera, Chozha, Pandava and Pallava dynastiesThe author has used nostalgic recollections of characters to talk about the past and give context to the characters Some of them seemed a bit out of place for the sake of introduction, but that can be excused as they are after all characters in this book which has past The book has lived up to it s promise with this first installment and I m told it only gets better FIRST IMPRESSION The original Ponniyin Selvan by Kalki Krishnamurthy is a legendary piece of literature, of course it was It inspired this translation and some like it I have seen the set of 5 volumes, huge books that have adorned the shelves of many bookworms I knew, especially those from the previous generation The books were treasured possessively and guarded with care They were often perused in parts, with people seeking their favorite quotes or lines or events from the book So from a bookworm s perspective, I knew it was a very important series of books.Though my mother herself was a huge fan of the series and this was discussed at length with me, the only detail I managed to scrape through was the rough meaning behind the title The reference to the river Ponni and the meaning of the word Selvan together combining to make the title seem interesting and alluring But beyond that point, there was not much I knew about the actual story It talked about the Chozha kings that was an additional piece of info I had picked up from my dismayed mother s explanations Despite being around this books since childhood, I have not read them This was not due to lack of interest or enthusiasm, but due to the fact that I had grown used to reading English books and was not sure I had patience enough to touch the Tamil books The series required a time investment I was not sure I d be able to give.This was probably why I jumped at the opportunity when an English translation of the book was offered for reading purposes The fact that it was written by an author whose previous works I absolutely loved was an added bonus The cover looked perfectly fitting, of a man s profile tastefully drawn as a warrior s pose The illustration will stand in your mind when you know what character it refers to and which point on the story it is relevant in The summary, of course, covered just enough to keep the reader engaged without trying to best the original REVIEW The first thing that struck me about Ponni s Beloved, once the initial thrill and magic subsided, was that, I would surely need to refer the glossary of 170 odd words and phrases the author has provided And for this book, I felt very glad I was reading it in digital format which made the switch from and to the story and glossary easier with just a single click Special praise to the team at IndiReads for this The whole reading experience was made much better I also thank the author dearly for translating these words and phrases patiently, and not resorting to changing them in the narrative or trudging on without explanation Their combined efforts have made this a richer experience, and that attention to detail is the first thing I shall praise about the book.It is not easy to translate a classic how many ever times one has read and loved it Nor is it easy to do justice to the original The translator has to work with a knack that will make sure that the book does not confuse or disappoint the fans of the original and still manage to keep it entertaining to newer readers who have heard of it but not read it Though I have not read the original, I still had to see the thought and dedication that has gone into the book and feel that, in some way, it was the best thing that could have happened to the casual young reader who wants to delve into classics but is afraid of losing interest midway It takes special talent to narrate a well known story in an engaging manner, and there, I feel, the author has done complete justice to the book.The original Ponniyin Selvan was famous because it is an intriguing tale of politics, betrayal, love, conspiracies, passionate affairs and the actual events that moved and shook kingdoms Ponni s Beloved captures all that beautifully, and hits the reader s imagination in the right spot The characters are brought alive in front of the eyes by the descriptive narrative and the author has managed to successfully balance the description to be detailed enough without bordering on boring or long winded The events in the story unfold in quick succession, with many characters making their mark on the reader s minds immediately The whole book is an enthralling mix of emotions in a huge jumble that makes it an unputdownable read in places.I am not elaborating on the story angle as it is already done by a legend Instead, I focused on making this review about how effective the translation was I have heard say that in translation, the beauty of the original is lost because certain word plays cannot be brought into another language Especially since I knew Tamil well, and could sense how the original could have been, reading it in English was a very enlightening experience But I would say the author has completely allayed my apprehensions This book was written exceedingly well, giving me its own supply of beautiful, memorable lines As with many IndiReads books, and from the previous books of the author I had read, the English was fluent without trying to sound like jargon, and it was a pleasure to read the Tamil words interspersed with the English narrative, effectively hearing how the original might have been.That being said, maybe it was easy for me because I knew both the languages I have read too many books that included slang and words from Hindi and other languages I couldn t really grasp to know how hard it would be if the words go over one s head But since this is a translation of a Tamil epic, it has to use the words and nouns as is to maintain the story line The names and places cannot be changed, and the occasional reference to the exhaustive glossary would really help move things along Strangely, even perusing the glossary in between did not ruin the reading experience for me This book is one I will treasure very much The goal of a good translation is to bring the book to a language and open up the beauty of the original to new readers It must also make the people those who can, of course eager to read the original Ponni s Beloved does both, and I thank the author very much for that WHAT I LIKED The way the originality was maintained in the words and descriptionsThe glossary was a lifesaver Yes I knew tamil But I needed it.The story kept me engrossed throughout after the initial few pagesWHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER The words, names and places are difficult to follow at times, but this was necessary to maintain the originality.The translation itself worked wonders but there were places where I personally felt it could have been even better But these are few and far betweenThe book takes some pages at first to get into the heart of the story so these parts must be read with an acquired interest.VERDICT Whether or not you have read the original, the translation is a must read It kept me engaged enough to read at a stretch More such classics should be translated.RATING 4.5 5 Unputdownable . Words fail when I try to think about this reading experience I started taking notes then stopped because there were just too many note worthy Eager to start part 2. A legendary piece of literature, Ponni s Beloved is Part One of five parts of the English translation of Kalki Krishnamurthy s Tamil Classic Ponniyin Selvan It has as its protagonist Vandiya Devan a young soldier who belongs to the brave warrior race of Vanars He is on a secret mission for the Crown Prince of the Chola Kingdom What follows is an adventurous journey through the realms of the Chola Kingdom Spiced with bits of gossip, fun frolic and subtle romance, the story is actually that of deceit and dare While we see that the thirst for power of a few, combined with the determination to wreak vengeance by some others, is ready to hit at the very foundation of a great empire, we also see the grit, determination and intelligence of one a woman, try match up to the conspiracies of the enemies in an attempt to thwart their mission and secure the future of the empire.The story with plots and sub plots and a range of characters, is interspersed with bits of historical facts here and there to enable the reader understand the characters, their place in the history of the region and the situation prevailing in those times better These not only enrich the knowledge of the reader but also help in understanding the story better They act as a guide to the Chola Kingdom.The characters are well fleshed out and come across as normal human beings prone to known moral virtues and vices like love, hate, empathy, jealousy, loyalty, treachery, etc Unlike the characters of the great Indian Epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana, those in Ponni s beloved do not have supernatural powers They act and react purely by instinct and hence it is easy for one to connect to them, their thoughts and their actions and reactions.The footnotes at the end of each page take care of the Tamil words, names, etc., that often crop up within the story They are like the help desk that provides fast and efficient service Overall an engrossing and interesting read, Ponni s Beloved did not satiate my thirst for the Tamil Classic Instead it ignited an urge to know of the story which is open ended in the first part To be frank I was disappointed when it came to an end because it felt abrupt and incomplete Felt like I was cheated Can t wait for the remaining volumes to hit the stands.