Ashokamitran (1931–2017), a towering figure in modern Tamil literature, was born in Nizam-ruled Secunderabad. In his writing he often draws on his experiences of growing up there after the fall of the Nizam in the wake of Independence, as he does in his award-winning novel Padinettavadu Atchakodu (1977), The Eighteenth Parallel.
One of Ashokamitran’s finest works, the story revolves around Chandru, adolescent, vulnerable and guileless, growing up through the turbulence before and after 1947, when Hyderabad was the State of Nizam. This forms the charged political backdrop, closely interwoven with Chandru’s life at home, at college, and his coming of age in the streets of Hyderabad.
Chandru, whose father works for the Nizam’s Railway, is crazy about cricket and cinema, perplexed by his budding interest in girls, loves his buffalo, and can sing. His disarmingly unaffected yet riveting first-person narrative—as he negotiates friendships with Tamils like himself, Muslims, Anglo-Indians and girls, and struggles to make sense of peaceful Hyderabad’s violent accession to the Indian Union, the horrors wreaked by the Nizam’s Razakars, the communal riots, and World War II—reveals how acutely Ashokamitran observed people, events and life. Cycling about Hyderabad and Secunderabad with Chandru, these historic cities come alive through landmarks like Lancer Barracks, Tank Bund, Regimental Bazaar, Nizam College, Tivoli Cinema and more. For many readers, Chandru, laconic, funny and uncynical, is unmistakably young Ashokamitran himself.
Padinettavadu Atchakodu won the prestigious Ilakkia Chintanai Award. Impeccably translated by Gomathi Narayanan, this timeless modern classic, first published in English in 1993, now appears in a beautiful new edition.
Ashokamitran (1931–2017) is a pioneer of modern Tamil literature and a towering literary figure, with a prolific career spanning six decades. His published works include a play, eight collections of short stories, eight novels, novellas, besides several edited anthologies, essays, literary criticism and reviews. Karaintha Nizhalgal (Star-Crossed, 1969), Tanneer (Water, 1973), Padinettavadu Atchakodu (The Eighteenth Parallel, 1977), and Indru (Today, 1984) are among his best known novels.
Ashokamitran had diverse interests, including theatre and film, and served on several film appreciation and certification panels. One of the earliest Tamil authors to write on the conditions of women, he also translated Anita Desai’s award-winning novel Fire on the Mountain into Tamil, as Malai Mel Nerruppu. He received the distinguished Ilakkiya Chintanai awards in 1977 and 1984, and the Government of Tamil Nadu awards for fiction of the year in 1985, 1987 and 1990. His short story collection Appavin Snegidhar (Father’s Friend) won the 1996 Sahitya Akademi Award. His novels and stories have been extensively translated, and his unique prose style left an indelible mark on younger writers.
Gomathi Narayanan is a writer, researcher and translator who has taught at both Kerala and Delhi universities. Her articles and literary translations from Tamil have appeared in the Sahitya Akademi journal Indian Literature and other periodicals. Her published works include Anuvum Namum (1963), which won the Madras University Award for popular work in the field of science, and Sahibs and the Natives: A Study of Guilt and Pride in Anglo-Indian and Indo-Anglian Novels (1986). Other than Ashokamitran’s The Eighteenth Parallel, her works in translation include Silent Storm (1990), a translation of the novel Mauna Puyal by Vaasanthi, and The Guilty and Other Stories (2002), also by Vaasanthi. She lives in Chennai where she also teaches part-time.