Translation is born free


The Eye Said one day, “I see beyond these valleys a mountain, veiled with blue mist. Is not beautiful? The ear listened, an after listening intently a while said, “But where is any mountain?” I do not hear it”. Then the hand spoke and said, “I am trying in vain to foot it or touch it, and I can find no mountain. And the Nose said, “There is no mountain, I cannot smell it”. Then the Eye turned the other way, and they all begun to talk together about the Eye. Strange delusion. And they said, “something must be matters with the Eyes” (Eye- Khalil Gibran). Similarly, the poetry of A. Ayyappan also shows the true vision of grim reality to us.

Like this ‘Eye’ in the story written by Khalil Gibran, A. Ayyappan, a well-known poet in Malayalam, was also a prey or victim of the contemporary social structure. He was marginalized all the way of his life, by the political hegemony and social discrimination. But he reacted against the vanity culture and virtual structure of the modern and post-modern societies, by using intensified signifiers. Most of his profound signifiers refer to socio-cultural meanings in which surveillance constrains the freedom of individuals.  He fought for ‘the other’, the people who are discriminated by the power and politics.

Ayyappan’s poetry is a prism of life through which emotions and commotions, love and lust are explored. As a poet, Ayyappan has sought divergent poetic devices to ‘defemilarize’ the familiarized things. In other words, hunger for the innovative narratives by using metonymy and metaphor makes him a very dissimilar poet in Malayalam.  He has emphasized on political and philosophical symbols to depict his conceptualization of the world. The various strips of symbols from Buddhism, Marxism and existentialism are used in his poems for this purpose.  The silence of a saint and   blubber of a beggar could also be seen in some of his poems with harmonic sequence of phonemes. Using exemplary meta-language is other idiosyncrasy of his writing.

It is a fact that translating the poetry of Ayyappan is an intricate action.P.K. N. Panicker, a well-known poet, writer and translator, plays a role of a catalyst in the process of establishing and positioning A. Ayyappan in the global world of literature. He has translated fifty different styles of poems of A. Ayyppan, which have diasporic response to society, into English. The present anthology of translation also focuses on the different dimensions of the poetic and life visions of Ayyappan.  This translation is a reciprocal and creative communication between the source language, and the target language. Examples are many to prove the translator’s capability of translating   a vibrant poet like Ayyappan.

A barber to cut hair

A tailor to stitch

For me, to read or write

But it was not to be so (Flowers in the Jail court yard)


Athazham(Dinner),  the poem that has made Ayyappan a popular poet in Malayalam,  has been  translated it in unscrambling manner:


trampling over the blood

of the one who died

in the road accident

my eyes on the five Rupee Note

Slipped out from his pocket.


The Translator has observed keenly on the life and writing of Ayyppan and touched the oozing blood from the heart of poetry.


Ayyappan drinks poetry in the lap of life that he opted. For him poetry was everything. He was a beggar who throws golden coins of creativity along the pavements of the sensibility of Malayalam poetry.

The translator knows the rhythm of Ayyappan, as he says in the preface of this translation, “A. Ayyappan, a poet of extraordinary sensitivity – every movement, even the smallest aberration from the routine, from the normal was adequate to stir the poetic consciousness within him. So much so, situations that got transformed into poetry which played on the chords deep within you are plenty and extravagantly diverse. His poems, every one of them, in some way or other, a little different from the usual narrative styles, encompasses a contrasting positioning, perhaps, if I may say so, reflecting at once what goes within the reader’s mind as well as that in the poet’s. A neat, pleasant juxtaposition of a normal perception with another crafted by the poet, concealed between the words and between the lines, makes Ayyappan’s poetry different. This uniqueness makes every one of his poems contemplative in their content, inviting the reader to read again and again, to search deeper and explore the layers of meaning that unravel every time you look at them with your mind refreshed”.  Panicker has perfectly brought out the metaphorical usages of the source language into target language. The translation of Ayyappan’s well known poem, adivara consisting of intensive metaphors to refer to history and social life of the down trodden people, is an example.

When studying history

some people

underline specific lines

Missed past/is the book of history

Every line of that book

deserves to be underlined/All paths

moves along defined lines(underline)


P.K.N. Panicker has assumed two types of translations: (i) translation of the lexical entries of the source language (Ayyappan’s poetry) into the target language’s lexical items (English version) (ii) translation of the metaphorical usages of the source language (Ayyappan’s Poetry) into the target language (English). It means the translator is very careful to absorb subtitle tones of the poetry of Ayyappan. The present translation appears in the right context since there are not many good translations of the modern, high modern and post modern poetry from Malayalam either into other Indian languages or into English. Moreover, translation is considered as a vehicle for cultural transmission.


Panicker is capable of recreating the thoughts and feelings, images and rhythm in English and has also proved to pinpoint the ‘inherent heterogeneity’of the poetry by Ayyappan. The translator is faithful to the original both in form and content.


Panicker, the translator, proudly offers us the golden oranges and melancholic bitter guards and semantic onions from the thorny poetic garden of A. Ayyappan. The translator makes the readers in eager silence to peel them, and experience the different poetic ways of A. Ayyappan.



Dr.P.M.Girish is Professor of Malayalam in the Malayalam Department of Madras University. His specialisation is Linguistics. He has published several books in Malayalam and English on Linguistics of which ‘Critical Discourse Analysis: Linguistic Studies in Malayalam’, published by LAP, Germany (2010) has been appreciated by researchers in linguistics world over.

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