Arun Kolatkar in French

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Arun Kolatkar, the bilingual English-Marathi poet (1932-2004) becomes only the second modern Indian poet to be translated and published by the prestigious French publishing house, in the collection Poésie/Gallimard after Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The bookstore, Kitab Khana in Mumbai – in association with Alliance Française de Bombay and The PEN All-India Centre celebrate in october 2013 the publication, in France, of Kala Ghoda: Poems on Bombay. The co-translator, Laetita Zecchini  will be present for the event and the discussion.

Arun Kolatkar

Arun Kolatkar

Ask any Bombay literature enthusiast and he will tell you that a typical Arun Kolatkar poem will have certain generic images : the street, animals, impoverished individuals. A view from the bottom, a stark depiction of gritting reality is what one experiences in his collection. The streets of Bombay are brought to life in Arun Koaltkar’s poetry. It was in 2004 that a collection of his urban poems, called the  Kala Ghoda : Poems on Bombay, was published in Bombay by Ashok Shahane. His works received much greater appreciation after his demise in 2004. The Kala Ghoda : Poems on Bombay are fundamentally urban in essence, in  imagery, style and symbols. These are images; a inhabitant of Bombay will immediately distinguish and connect with. Kala Ghoda is the name of a busy island street in South Bombay which is almost always bustling with tremendous activity. It is in streets like this that life flows and the romanticized, ideal city is confronted with its own haunting shadows.
Arun Kolatkar was majorly influenced by the avant-garde poets like William Carlos Williams and by the writers of the Beat Generation like Allen Ginsberg. The Beat Movement was anti-establishment and such a subtle yet sharp voice of resistance is what echoes in the poems of Kolatkar. That is where his poetry gets its rugged effect.
A major element that is pervasive in his poetry is the image of grime. The filth, which is burgeoning as the city thrives, is as significant a part of the city as are its enduring spirit and fortitude, it’s a reality city-dwellers have come to terms with. And through Kolatkar’s poems, we see the city, its landscape, from the perspective of the marginalized, the ones that are at the lowest rung of the social ladder. It is witty, sarcastic and yet a poignant depiction of a city that is so absorbed in a time race with itself. It’s evident from his poetry that he had a keen eye for detail and irony and the subtle humor in the poems is almost palpable. Humor that sprouts from brazen hypocrisy of urban living, human follies, the city and himself ! It is almost as if he belongs and represents a sub-culture that survives in the city.  Kolatkar instinctively recognized the misery endured by the underprivileged and the marginalized, which only prompted him to chronicle his thoughts, focusing squarely on them as his subjects. He wrote his poems on the underdogs of Bombay’s underbelly as the protagonists of his writings, peppering his words liberally with satirical humor. His works contained descriptions from a rag picker rummaging through the garbage, a child prostitute washing her hair on the pavement or an alcoholic languishing under a parched tree, among others. He was fascinated by the mundane and through his literary skills, made the mundane fascinating.
Kala Ghoda : Poems on Bombay  has been translated by Laetita Zecchini and Pascal Aquien and the collection was recently published in France.  To celebrate the publication of the work in France, the bookstore, Kitab Khana – in association with Alliance Française de Bombay and The PEN All-India Centre  have organised a discussion with Laetitia Zecchini and Ranjit Hoskote, a poet and cultural theorist from Bombay. According to Laetitia Zecchini, ‘C’est le moment de faire revivre la voix du poète de la ville‘. It most certainly is a proud moment for the city as one of its very own has received great recognition.

– Manas Paradkar & Sunil Chhabra

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Directeur de publication : Délégation Générale de la Fondation Alliance Française en Inde et au Népal

Rédacteur en chef : Laurent Elisio Bordier

Rédacteur/Coordinateur national : Siddharth Bhatt

Rédacteurs, contributeurs : Guillaume, Abhirami, Alexandre, Chintan, Cléa, David, Eleonore, Elie, Kanika, Karine, Nita, Thomas, Malvika, Marie-Joëlle, Meera, Mayuri, Mitushi, Alice, Prutha, Romain, Ritika, Manas, Supriya ...