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Vaadivaasal: Arena, A novella by CS Chellappa, Translated by N Kalyan Raman, OUP India

Vaadivaasal, a novella published in 1949, is considered as a modern literary classic in Tamil. It describes the events of an afternoon in Periyapatti, a village in southern Tamil Nadu, where a jallikattu-contest involving the traditional sport of bull taming-is under way.

The contest in a jallikattu is always between the bull tamer and a man of power, who is represented by the bull. Vaadivaasal is a masterful account not only of a traditional sport and the people who engaged in it, but also of the relations of power and how they played out in a bygone era. As a work that captures the tremors of a life-and-death battle between man and animal, it is an outstanding achievement in the annals of Tamil prose fiction.

‘The breathless reading through the last few pages where Kaari and Picchi are face to face, sizing up each other, each up to all the tricks needed for survival and success is at once the proof of the storyteller’s mastery of the art and the translator’s efficacy in recreating the nuanced rustic language… Justice has been rendered to Si. Su. Chellappa by this fine translation.’

‘Here we see in all its glory, the true strength of this translation, its extraordinary attention to details, so vital in a book such as this that so effortlessly visualises for the reader synesthetically with its wonderful “as-it’s happening” descriptions of the precise sequence of movements that aid man or beast to best each other…Vaadivaasal is a very visual novel, almost a running commentary of a live sporting event, rendered in lilting conversational prose. This translation is a labour of love that pays such wonderful attention to every last speck of dirt swirling in Chellappa’s Jallikattu arena.’ Nakul Vac in



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