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Sundara Ramaswamy (1931–2005), fondly known as "Su.Ra" in literary circles, was one of the exponents of Tamil modern literature. He edited and published a literary magazine called Kalachuvadu. He wrote poetry under the penname "Pasuvayya". His novels are Oru Puliya Marathin Kathai (The Story of a Tamarind Tree), J.J Silakuripukal (J.J: Some Jottings, tr, A.R Venkadachalapathy, Katha, 2004) and Kuzhanthaikal, Penkal, Aankal (Children, Women, Men).
Ramaswamy was born on 30 May 1931, in Thazhuviya MahadevarKovil, a village in Nagercoil). At 20, he began his literary career, translating Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai's Malayalam novel, Thottiyude Makan into Tamil and writing his first short story, "Muthalum Mudivum", which he published in Pudimaipithan Ninaivu Malar. he died on year 2005
He was influenced by the works of reformers like Gandhi, E. V. Ramasami Naicker, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Dr. J.C. Kumarappa, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and Pudumaipithan, the writer who ushured in modernity into Tamil literature. He met the great literary luminary of Malayalam, M. Govindan, in 1957 and remained his good friend till the end. In 1950s, he met the Communist leader P. Jeevanandham. He was influenced by Marxian philosophy. His relationship with the literary magazine Shanti, edited by T. M. Chidambara Ragunathan, and his joining the editorial-board of Saraswathi were decisive in his growth as a writer.
His talent manifests itself through his novels. Oru Puliamarathin Kathai (The Story of a Tamarind Tree, 1966), his first novel, was well received as a work that proved to be a new experience both in form and content, extending the frontiers of Tamil novel and creating new perspectives. He gave up active writing for nearly six years; and when he began again in 1973, he had gone far beyond executing an interesting and agile narration.
He still remained a stylist, but his concerns took new directions and his language acquired a solid texture, retaining a powerful and pointed humour.
Oru Puliamarathin Kathai has been translated into English (Tale of a Tamarind Tree, Penguin India, New Delhi), Hindi (Imli Puran, Nilakant Prakashan, New Delhi), Malayalam (Oru Puliyamarathinte Katha, D.C.Books, Kottayam) and into Hebrew language (by Ronit Ricci, Hakibbutz Hameuchaud Publishing House, Tel Aviv).
Sundara Ramaswamy suspended active writing for nearly six years; and when he resumed in 1973, one found a different Ramaswamy whose considerations outgrew those for an interesting and agile narration. True, he still remained a stylist, but his concerns took new directions and his language which ceased to be soothing and amusing acquired a solid texture yet it retained a strong feel for humor, only now more powerful and pointed. It was in this phase that he wrote his stories in the Palanquin Bearers volume, and later an outstanding novel J.J Silakuripukal (J.J. Some Notes). Unusually for Tamil fiction of the era, this novel eschewed narration, brought in a tone of intense meditation on the quality of human life and the problem of remaining human.
In 1959, he wrote his first poem, "un kai nagam" under the poetic pseudonym "Pasuvia" and published it in Ezhuthu. Poetry brought him the experience of a dimension beyond the concreteness of words and their meaning. The early poems were rigorous in language and heavy in tone. His poems gradually became more translucent and immediate. All his poems are collected in the volume, 107 Kavithaikal.
He has translated from Malayalam into Tamil Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai's Chemmeen and Thottiyude Magan and short stories by Thakazhi, Basheer, Karoor Neelakanta Pillai and M. Govindan. He has also translated a few poems of N.N. Kakkad. "Su. Ra" had a tall and handsome stature and a mesmerizing presence. Friends and acquaintances still recall that he had the gift of the gab and a terrific sense of humour. He was the mentor of writers like B. Jeyamohan and Lakshmi Manivannan and a close friend of world-class Malayalam director John Abraham.
As a poet, Ramasamy's output, though not quantitatively vast, is very significant. In fact it is more difficult to speak about his poetry. His poems are a severe questioning into one's existence, perceptions, conflicts, tireless but often defeated search. The early poems were rigorous in language and heavy in tone. But gradually, his poems became more translucent and immediate. Often, he adopts a discussive tone. His poems are not rhetoric; his language usage has set new directions and possibilities.
Almost all of Ramaswamy's writings have appeared in little magazines which though reaching limited readership have sustained serious literary work in Tamil during the last fifty years. Ramaswamy has also contributed significantly to the disciplines of literary criticism and essays. He has translated poems from English and novels from Malayalam. Ramaswamy has travelled widely; he was a participant in the Indian Poetry Festival in Paris. He has visited Malaysia, Singapore, London and Toronto for talks on literary topics. He died on 14 October 2005 aged 74.
Awards and Honours
He received the following awards
- Kumaran Asan Memorial Award
- Iyal Award by The Tamil Literary Garden for Lifetime achievement in 2001
- Katha Chudamani Award (2004)
- "Novel as critique". The Hindu (India). 4 January 2004.
- "Milestones in Tamil literature". The Hindu (Madurai, India). 27 August 2003.
- "Novel as Debate". Frontline (India). 2 November 2012.
- "Sundara Ramaswamy dead". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 16 October 2005.
- "2001 Iyal Award". Tamil Literary garden. Retrieved 26 July 2013.