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Deep rivers

Kannan M.
Jennifer Clare

Occasional Papers

Tamil Literature in French translation

A first assessment

Texte intégral

  • 1 A. Madanagopalane, K. S. Raghavan, A. Mudhavali, Catalogue des ouvrages français en Inde, Madras 1 (...)
  • 2 IITS publication.
  • 3 Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters, History of European Reactions to Indian Art, O. U. P. 1977.
  • 4 “Esquisse d’un Catalogue raisonné des traductions du Tamoul en Français” in Ragmala, Les littératu (...)

1In 1988, an attempt was made at a recension of the French books available in Indian Libraries.1 A short list of translations of French works in Tamil was also prepared by the International Institute of Tamil Studies.2 The listing of French translations from Tamil Literature remains a desideratum however and, as a consequence, it is commonly accepted that, even though as far as the past is concerned “it is striking that all the information about Hinduism in Paris was derived from the South”3 today, translations of the contemporary Indian literary production are from English, Hindi or Bengali, but too rarely from Tamil. A professional enquiry on the subject would certainly give room for more nuance, but the occasion of focusing on the modern literatures of India in French translations4 has provided us with an opportunity to attempt a first preliminary recension of the translations from Tamil into French, from the first discoveries to the present state of affairs and to ponder the pros and cons of the panorama revealed.

From Sanskrit to French through Tamil

2Bhagavatam ou Doctrine Divine, Ouvrage Indien, Canonique; Sur l’Être Suprême, les Dieux, les Géans, les Hommes, les diverses parties de l’Univers, & c., Paris, 1788, lxiv, 348 p.

3The work is anonymous, and the Preliminary Dissertation which introduces it, in a rather scholarly way, does not reveal the name of the translator of the Tamil version adapted from Sanskrit. We know him as Maridas Pillai from Pondicherry. The editor of the book is Foucher d’Obsonville, who refers to the French translation by Perraud of the Sanskrit Bhagavad-Gītā from the English version of Charles Wilkins, issued one year before, in 1787.

4So from the very beginning, Tamil has shared with Sanskrit, the fundamental task of transmitting the cultural patrimony of classical India. The book is an important landmark; it was translated into German as early as 1791. Several copies of the original mss., today lost, were also circulated.

5Le Bhāgavata, d’après un texte Sen Tamoul, Nouvelle traduction de Maridas Poullé de Pondichéry (1793-1795), édité par le Père H. Hosten, Pondichéry, Société de l’Histoire de l’Inde Française, 1921.

6This also constitutes the first part of Volume IV of the Revue Historique de l’Inde Française (1920). It is just another version edited by the Jesuit scholar H. Hosten, from a later mss. which he considered autograph.

7Bhāgavadam ou Bhāgavata Purāna, ouvrage religieux et philosophique indien traduit par Maridas Poullé de Pondichéry en 1769, Introduction et Adaptation de J. B. P. Moré, Préface de Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat, IRISH, Tellicherry, 2004.

8This is no critical edition, but a text “adapté au temps actuel” (sic), in a modern garb with a few notes and a glossary. A final edition remains therefore a desideratum, as the most recent “adapters”, while reproaching Foucher d’Obsonville with his tampering with the text actually still make the same mistake.

9But M. Moré did a very good job of giving a true and far better picture of Maridas Pillai as a scientist and informant at the service of the French by publishing also his French version of the Panchatantra, along with other texts on Tamil culture, including astronomy and the translation of an “Impromptu” “played in Tamil in front of a great gathering of the main Malabar of the city of Pondichéry on 18th April 1772; it was “composed by Augustin Maridas Pullé from Coundamoudeyar, Interpreter to the King”. This is a very rare sample of this kind of ephemeral performance and “colonial” literature:

10La civilisation indienne et les fables hindoues du Panchatantra de Maridas Poullé, Adaptation et présentation de J. B. P. Moré, IRISH –LPMC, 2004.

11Histoire de Nella Raja, Roman Indien, Traduit du Tamoul, sur la version Anglaise de M. Kindersley, Attaché au Service Civil de la Compagnie des Indes, 1788 (sic) (Bibliothèque Etrangère, de l’imprimerie de E. Pochard, Paris).

12For the first time, this episode of the Mahābhārata and the subject of Harsha’s masterpiece Naishadacarita was presented in French and in a popular edition. Other translations would follow; one, by Sylvain Lévi, inaugurated, in 1920, at the Editions Bossard, a collection “Les Classiques de l’Orient”, a set of about ten volumes, of high print quality, of translations or adaptations from various Indian languages.

13Nevertheless, this translation from Tamil remains the first, even if the date, 1788, on the title page is wrong, as the original source, N. E. Kindersley, Specimen of Hindu Literature, consisting of Translations from the Tamoul (sic) language of some Hindoo Works of Morality and Imagination was indubitably issued in London only in 1794, as it quotes the narrative of Major Dirom’s Campaign in Mysore published in 1793. Worse, the French book quotes Tippo-Saëb, a tragedy by M. de Jouy, which is dated 1813.

14But in any case, this Nella Raja inaugurates a more or less perennial series of translations fom Tamil versions of Sanskrit classics, a rather surprising duplication at first sight, but one that clearly indicates that “classical” Indian studies were possible in Tamil without the Sanskrit medium. We do understand better how deep in Tamil culture is the feeling that a complete Indian humanism exists through Tamil language and civilisation alone. We have a few more samples:

15Cakuntala, Drame indien, Version tamoule d’un texte sanskrit, traduite en français par Gérard Devèze, Paris, 1888, first published in Revue de Linguistique et de Philologie Comparée, vol.19-21, 1886-1888.

16This is probably an exercise in translation under the direction of Julien Vinson, the first French Professor to have Tamil explicitly associated with his chair of Indian languages at INALCO. The Tamil text is the Sakuntalāvilāsam by Ramacantra Kavirayar from Rajanallur («Déclaration de l’auteur», page 4) who edited in Madras the Caturagarādi of Beschi in 1824 along with Tandavaraya Mudaliyar (Barnett & Pope, Catalogue of the Tamil Books in the Library of the British Museum, s.v.).

17Krishna-Lila ou Mystères de l’avatar de Krishna, Episode extrait du Mahābhārata, traduit et adapté du Tamoul, par Sactivél, Paris, Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1937.

18This episode from the Mahābhārata, translated and adapted from Tamil, is here published in a prestigious collection ‘Les joyaux de l’ Orient’, including the Raghuvaṃśa (La lignée des fils du Soleil) of Kālidāsa, translated from Sanskrit by the great French scholar Louis Renou.

19Vikramadittan, Contes de l’Inde, d’après la version tamoule, traduite et adaptée par A. M. Aly Maricar et Paul Gros, Paris, éditions ‘La pensée universelle’, (it is generally understood that it was at the author’s own cost), 1975.

20A short preface by Jean Filliozat does not touch upon the question of possible regional variations of those famous Twenty-five Tales of the Vetala. Although announced here as a “first part”, no second volume has ever been published.

A Tamil original classicism at last revealed to French readers

21Ramayana de Kambar, Sundara Kandam (Livre de la beauté), traduit du tamoul, par M. le Bâtonnier Gnanou Diagou, Pondichéry, 1972.

22We had to wait till 1972 to see the French translation of the fifth canto of the Kambar epic by the former President of Bar, Gnanou Diagou (1877-1959) published, by his son and grand-son.

23It was, all the same, still the first Translation in a European language of this masterpiece of Tamil literature which is now accessible in several English abridged versions. Only one other canto has been translated into English in full, by George L. Hart and Hank Heifetz, The Forest Book of the Ramayana of Kampan (University of California, Berkeley, 1988).

24A French translation of the same canto has been submitted as a IIIrd Cycle thesis at Paris III University, by M. Vasssicheta Sarmah under the direction of Mme Charlotte Vaudeville.

25Le Camba- Ramayanam traduit par Parandjody Rollin, préface de Justice David Annoussamy Le Trait d’Union, Pondichéry, 2000.

26This is an abridged version, but very readable. It first appeared as a serial in the French monthly journal, Le Trait d’Union. The author of the Preface collected the set which really deserves a wider audience.

27Intimidated by the size of Kampan’s work, Pondicherian translators preferred to select the shorter collections of moral stanzas from classical Tamil literature, thus offering a series of texts from the Caṅkam period to pre-modern times as an anthology of the high ethical ideal of Tamil culture.

28Les petits poètes tamouls: comprenant Attisoudi, Kondreyvenden, Vettiverkei, Moudourei, Nalvaji, Nanneri et Nidinnerivilakkam, traduit en français par J. B. Adam, Juge de Paix, et publié par C. Doressamypoullé, conseiller général, Karikal, Imprimerie de Cassim Mougaidineravoutter, 1880.

29This short volume (5, 61 p.) collects, just as does Tamil Wisdom by Edward Jewitt, Robinson (Londres, 1873, XI, 148 p.; enlarged edition 1885, X, 388 p., under the title Tales and Poems of South India, From the Tamil) and many later collections, the aphorisms and stanzas traditionally memorised by school children; these are, in fact, anonymous though attributed to prestigious authors. The great nationalist poet Soupramania Baradi, as the French spelling has it, himself composed a modern Attisoudi on the model of Auvaiyar’s. Both versions have been translated into French by Karavelane, alias Me. Léon Saint-Jean. These translations and some others, of Tamil poems, classical or modern, were collected in a Commemorative Volume published for his Sixtieth Birthday in 1960.

30Karâvêlane. Volume commémoratif du soixantième Anniversaire de naissance 23 Août 1960, slnd (Pondichéry).

31So, there is clearly a Pondicherian tradition of cultured lawyers, Indian by birth or by inclination who are well versed in French language and literature and therefore able to become the interpreters of the Tamil classical texts they were equally proud of. The most prolific example is Me. Gnanou Diagou, already quoted under Kampan, who started with.

32Histoire détaillée des rois du Carnatique par Narayananm poullé, traduite du tamoul et annotée, Pondichéry et Librairie Ernest Leroux, Paris, 1939.

33This is a rare and important document, a historical chronicle attributed to an alleged successor of the kings of Gingy, and also found in the famous Mackenzie Collection. The family of Gnanou Diagou have continued to reprint his other literary translations.

34Koural de Tirouvallouvar, 1942, 1973,

35Naladhyar des Zaïnas Mounivars (sic) 1946, 1966,

36Assara Kovai (traité de la politesse) de Perouvayin Moulliar, 1950, 1963, 1971, 1987,

37L’épigramme triple de Nalladanar, 1955, 1986,

38Ara Nery Sarom (essence du chemin de la vertu), 1955, 1986,

39Nanmanikadhigai (Coffret aux quatre pierres précieuses) de Vilambi Naganar, 1964, 1986,

40The last but one is a set of Jaina didactic stanzas. All the others belong to the Eighteen Collections which end the Caṅkam classical literature. The first two are major works, and the Kuṟaḷ of Tiruvaḷḷuvar is of course the most often translated. The first complete French translation is:

41Poésies populaires du Sud de l’Inde, traduction et notices par E. Lamairesse, Paris Librairie internationale, A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven et Cie, éditeurs, à Bruxelles, à Leipzig et à Livourne, 1867.

42The Kuṟaḷ occupies pages 9-207 out of 364 pages. Other texts are a legend and a drama, which are not “classics” in any way and a few religious songs, which are quite classical, so that the title, “Popular songs” is hardly justified.

43Julien Vinson commented that M. Lamairesse, former chief-engineer of Public Works in Pondicherry, “had printed by the International Library in Paris a complete translation, done at his request by some Indians” and that, as such, those translations “certainly correct” are “lacking, precision and are too often only paraphrases of the text.”

44It may be true that even Gnanou Diagou’s Koural has integrated into the wording of the version the substance of Parimēlaṟakar’s commentary. In 1974, an Indian professor from Mauritius gave us, at last, a French translation, concise, elegant and faithful to the original:

45Tirouvallouvar, Tiroukkoural, traduit du tamoul par Mootoocoumaren Sangeelee, Editions de l’Océan Indien, Stanley, Rose-Hill, Île Maurice, 3ème impression, 2001, with a preface by François Gros, in homage to the translator on the centenary of his birth.

46Not surprisingly, the same author has also translated into French the set of Tamil ethical works, from Auvaiyar to Sivaprakasar and Kumara Guruparar, known in its English version as Ten Tamil Ethics under the title,

47Ethique de l'Inde du Sud Traduit du Tamoul par Mootoocoumaren Sangeelee, Port Louis, 1985.

48M. Sangeelee, Bouquet de Sagesse, Textes tamouls choisis et traduits en français, Port Louis, 1988. Selection of ethical texts; among them Tayumanavar, Ramalinga Swami and Suddhananda Bharathi.

49Mootoocoumaren Sangeelee, Viveka sintamani, Traité de morale traduit du tamoul. Editions de l'Océan Indien, 1991. A late collection of moral aphorisms.

From amateur fancies to well organised research

50Fleurs de l’Inde, comprenant La mort de Yaznadate… et plusieurs autres poésies indoues suivies de deux chants arabes… on y a joint une troisième édition de L’Orientalisme rendu classique dans la mesure de l’utile et du possible, Nancy et Paris, 1857.

51The compiler is most probably the baron Guerrier de Dumast, born in Nancy in 1796. In 1845 the president of the local Academy of Stanislas in Nancy had published a first versified adaptation of some of the Kuraḷ translated by Ariel in the French Journal Asiatique as

52“Maximes traduites des Courals de Tirou-Vallouvar ou La Morale des Parias d’après des extraits de Poésie Tamoule”.

53He published it again in 1854, with a preface which is a manifesto in favour of the parias and of their indigenous culture, subdued by the glorious race of conquerors “which we can call aryâne or sanscrite”. It is a thundering revelation in a master-piece of an autochtonous literature “of the primitive population of the Gattes, or, in other terms, of the original Hindu race, non-sanskritic.” The author claims to be only a faithful translator: “Nothing tender and delicate, male and vigorous, neither elevated, ideal, immense, - including the surges of the most sublime generosity - ; nothing which does not belong to the very text of the Courals, and which, then, is not a part of the treasury of feelings and thoughts inherited by this famous caste of the Parias whose name, inscribed below even the name of Hilotes, has become the expression of the lowest degree of debasement to which a category of mankind can be reduced on this earth.” This text, which could bear a Dalit signature today, is dated 1854, and the booklet containing the discourse was reprinted in that anonymous compilation of 1857, along with the 3rd edition of “Orientalism, made classical as far as useful and possible”, a manifesto dated 1853, intended not to strengthen a case which is “excellent and victorious by itself” but only to spread it more widely. We must remember that the first yearly sessions of the Congress of Orientalists were not held only in Paris but in Marseilles, Lyon, etc. as well.

54Chants populaires du Sud de l’Inde, traduction et notices par E. Lamairesse, Paris Librairie internationale, A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven et Cie, éditeurs, à Bruxelles, à Leipzig et à Livourne, 1868.

55From the somehow resounding militant context of Fleurs de l’Inde we understand that Lamairesse exploited the success of his Poésies populaires of 1867. The new title is also misleading, as 284 pages out of 334 present a rather well informed and detailed ethnographic introduction to India, religions, philosophy, mythology, cults and social conditions. The “translations”, in contrast, are a strange combination of Bayadères’ songs which use Latin to offend modesty and, beggars and lepers’ abuses, all aiming at “translating, as was done before me, all the typical poems I could get hold of on India, whatever may be the nature of their subject.” This informal eclecticism, an easy victim of its informants, is unfortunately often opened to fancies and forgeries; it has paved the way for an extraordinarily prolix forger who still finds a place in serious bibliographies.

56Louis Jacolliot (1837-1890) who had been employed in French India for only three years used his memories and, even more, his extraordinary imagination, to write more than fifty books: travels, “historical” novels and many philosophico-religious treatises bearing quite impressive titles, and unfortunately also published by A. Lacroix, the selfsame publisher of Lamairesse. They have been often mistaken for scholarly or informative documents!

57One anecdote will suffice: he pretended to “correct” Lamairesse by giving the “authentic” text of the “Livre des devoirs [The book of duties] de Tirouvallouva (Le divin pariah)”. Drawn entirely from his imagination, the forgery occupies the largest section, accompanied by several plagiarisms and imaginary references, in Le Pariah dans l’humanité, Paris, 1876.

58Julien Vinson was of course infuriated, but Jacolliot was talented and knew how to exploit for unsophisticated French readers the commercial theme of the good paria (See Bernardin de Saint-Pierre), victim of the perfidy of the Brahmins and of the cruelty of the British colonial system. It still works, whatever else may be said.

59Jacolliot successfully occupied an empty space, and a serious investigation is yet to be made into his proper place in travel and adventure fiction from somewhere between Alexandre Dumas and Jules Verne, up to the present cheap popularisation of India. It would offer evidence that his imagination was more fertile and his sense of the “romanesque” more developed than that shown by many of our contemporaries who should be branded as his epigones.

60As opposed to him, some scholars who remain little known did fundamental work.

61Edouard Ariel (1818-1854), thanks to his master Burnouf, published in Le Journal Asiatique a few pioneering translation-articles: extracts from the Kuraḷ (Dec. 1848, Mai-June 1852) and the legendary lives of Tiruvaḷḷuvar (Jan. 1847).

62His unpublished manuscripts (and translations) are kept in the National Library in Paris and his memory as the first great French Tamil scholar is suitably honoured by an extract from a report read at the Paris Asiatic society on 14 December 1855 published under the title “La bibliothèque Tamoule de M. Ariel, de Pondichéry” in Variétés Orientales, historiques, géographiques, scientifiques, bibliographiques et littéraires, by Léon de Rosny, Paris, Maisonneuve et Cie, éditeurs, Librairie de l’Athénée Oriental, 1868, pp. 177-224.

63Julien Vinson (1842-1926) born in Kāraikāl, son of a French magistrate, left India for good in his eighteenth year, but he filled with translations from Tamil all the major French journals of linguistics and anthropology, and also the collections, unfortunately no longer existing, of the Recueils de textes et de traductions publiés par les professeurs de l’Ecole des Langues Orientales vivantes à l’occasion des Congrès Internationaux des Orientalistes. His amazing Tamil erudition is scattered through innumerable articles on a wide range of subjects, which should be collected; among them shine many translations forgotten or ignored. We quote only a few books and articles:

64Légendes bouddhistes et djainas, Traduites du Tamoul, Paris, Maisonneuve, 1900, 2 volumes, collection des ‘Conteurs & poètes de tous pays’.

65Cintāmaṇi, Cilappatikāram and Maṇimēkalai are introduced to general French readers through detailed summaries which are, in fact, avowedly faithful translations of the condensed prose versions written by U. Ve. Swaminatha Ayyar in his princeps Tamil editions. Selected specimens are also translated. Sheer ignorance inspired Alain Danielou to make an “attempt at a very abridged French translation”, this pioneering book of Vinson, known to Daniélou only through a posthumous reprint in 1928. Danielou also ignored:

66Un épisode du poème épique Cintamani, translated by Vinson, Paris, Leroux, 1883.

67One episode of the third canto, edited and translated by Vinson for the first time from a mss. he had in his personal collection containing the first three cantos only; it is to be noted that this article was published four years before the first complete edition was printed in India.

68L’Agaval de Kapila, poème tamoul sur les castes du sud de l’Inde, Paris, 1869. Extrait du tome XI de la Revue ethnographique.

69First published by Vinson in the Moniteur officiel des établissements français de l’Inde, no 25, Août 1861. This, first Dalit manifesto in Tamil so to speak, was thus revealed to French readers and had been published twice before the first English version was available in Tamil Wisdom by E. J. Robinson (Londres, 1873). Ariel had mentioned it earlier and, before him, La Croze, in Histoire du christianisme des Indes, p. 477 of the 1724 edition, taking the information from the Halle Berichte by Ziegenbalg.

70Les Français dans l’Inde, Dupleix et Labourdonnais, Extraits du Journal d’Anandarangappoullé, 1736-1748, Traduits du Tamoul, Paris Ernest Leroux 1894, LXXIX, 339 p.

71A major translation by Vinson of an episode from the famous diary, translated for the first time directly from the Tamil original.

72Several projects to edit and translate the diary seem to be currently in progress. But so far: Ananda Ranga Poullé, Un livre de comptes, traduit du tamoul par le R. P. Oubagarasamy Bernadotte, Paris Leroux 1930, xxxvi, 48 p.

73is the only document by the famous Dubash published by the Société de l’Histoire de l’Inde Française, enriched with a preface by the historian, and former Governor, Edmond Gaudart.

74Les grandes pages du journal d’Ananda Ranga Pillai (1736-1761) Paris, L’Harmattan, 2003, 476 p.,

75is a selection, translated by Pierre Bourdat, but from the English version only, with a preface by Jean Deloche.

76Thus, it is thanks to Julien Vinson alone, that Tamil classical literature entered almost surreptitiously into the French classical patrimony on the edge of Sanskrit orientalism and found a place among the world classics. There follow a few more landmarks:

77Le Livre de l’Amour de Tirouvallouva, traduit du tamoul par G. Barrigue de Fontainieu, Paris, Alphonse Lemerre, 1889.

78The translator was a student of Vinson who gave him an interesting foreword. The publisher here welcomed the Kuraḷ into his “Bibliothèque contemporaine”, on a par, that is to say, with the most prestigious creative writings of the then living poets and novelists. Today, the same text finds its place with another prestigious publisher, but only in a special, if fashionable, oriental ghetto:

79Tiruvalluvar Le Livre de l’Amour, traduit du tamoul, présenté et annoté par François Gros, Gallimard, Connaissance de l’Orient, collection UNESCO d’œuvres représentatives, Paris, 1992.

80In the same collection:

81Prince Ilangô Adigal, Le roman de l’anneau (Shilappadikâram) Traduit du tamoul (sic) par Alain Daniélou et R. S. Desikan, préface d’Alain Daniélou, Gallimard, 1961.

82This is only a free, though elegant, rendering of V. R. Ramachandra Dikshitar’s English translation (Madras, 1939, with a foreword by the French indologist Jules Bloch). For a comparison with a direct translation from the Tamil original, French readers may consult:

83Trésor des récits épiques de l’humanité, sous la direction de Gérard Challiand, Paris, Plon, 1995,

84In which cantos IV and XIX to XXI of the Cilappatikāram are presented and translated by François Gros.

85Manimékhalaï ou le scandale de la vertu, du prince-marchand Shattan, Traduit du tamoul ancien par Alain Daniélou, avec le concours de T. V. Gopal Iyer, Flammarion, 1987.

86Daniélou managed to translate into French the English manuscript he had received from Gopal Iyer, but he persisted in interpreting the philosophical portions according to his personal vision of Hinduism, without taking into account, as he himself avows, ancient commentaries, as they do not exist, nor various recent critical studies he had no access to. Interestingly, the progression between his two adaptations shows that, nowadays, a Louis Jacolliot would have to be more careful. However, surprisingly, both French adaptations by Daniélou have been (re) translated into English and have found an audience; the first was even serialised in The illustrated weekly of India!

87The English version of Maṇimēkalai does justice to, some extent, to Gopal Iyer.

88Now we turn to a series of publications by the French Institute of Indology in Pondicherry, which, though ignored by the general French public, have been enriching considerably the international scientific world of Indian studies for more than half a century.

89Chants dévotionnels tamouls de Kāraikkālammaiyār, Edition et traduction par Karavelane. Introduction par Jean Filliozat.

90The new edition, with postface and index-glossaire by F. Gros, 1982 (1ère éd. 1956) includes the French translation of the relevant chapter of the Periya purāṇam by Julien Vinson, who had published it twice, first in 1880 and then, revised, in 1906.

91La légende des jeux de Siva à Madurai, d’après les textes et les peintures, R. Dessigane, P. Z. Pattabiramin et J. Filliozat, 1960, Fasc. 1: Texte; Fasc. 2: Planches.

92Les légendes çivaïtes de Kancipuram. Analyse de textes et iconographie, R. Dessigane, P. Z. Pattabiramin et J. Filliozat, 1964.

93La légende de Skanda selon le Kandapuranam tamoul et l’iconographie, R. Dessigane, P. Z. Pattabiramin et J. Filliozat, 1967.

94These three volumes are translations of prose versions (vacaṉam) of essential Tamil Saiva texts, intended to be studied along with the religious iconography. The author, a former interpreter at the civil court in Pondicherry, also published on his own account:

95French version of Tiruppavai (1952) and

96Hymnes tamouls à Çaraçuvati (1959) by Kampar et al.

97Un catéchisme tamoul du XVIe siècle en lettres latines, J. Filliozat, 1967.

98Presentation and translation of an early text composed and printed by Catholic missionaries for the diffusion of prayers and doctrine.

99Le Paripāṭal, Texte tamoul, Introduction, traduction et notes par F. Gros, 1968.

100The first integral translation in a European language, this book received the Prix Saintour 1969 from the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in Paris.

101Un texte tamoul de dévotion vishnouite. Le Tiruppāvai d’Āṇṭāḷ, J. Filliozat, 1972.

102Un texte de la religion Kaumara, Le Tirumurukāṟṟupaṭai, J. Filliozat, 1973.

103Two translations, each with a detailed index; the first also contains original translations of some traditional Vaishnava commentaries.

104Le commentaire de Cēṉāvaraiyar sur le Collatikāram du Tolkāppiyam. Sur la métalangue grammaticale des maîtres commentateurs tamouls médiévaux, J. L. Chevillard, Vol. 1, (Tamil text and translation), 1996.

105A remarkable thesis on linguistics submitted in 1990 in Paris. The second volume,

106Companion Volume to the Cēṉāvaraiyam on Tamil Morphology and Syntax, with an ‘English Introduction’ (pp. 10-41), a Tamil-French glossary of Cēṉāvaraiyam, a Tamil-French glossary of the Collatikāram, four essays and two other appendices exclusively in French, appeared only in 2008 (sic). The text, is also edited with the sandhi split.

107Those two volumes also constitute an important contribution to linguistics generally.

Rare freelance translators

108Periyapuranam ou L’Eternel Moyen Age, Voies Itinérantes, Auroville, 1995,

109General presentation with a few samples of translation

110La Légende de Saint Siruthondar ou Le Petit Serviteur dans la (sic) Periyapuranam La Grande Epopée Tamoule Médiévale, Voies Itinérantes, Auroville, 1996.

111Translation with text and notes. Both volumes are by Paul Mirabile of Auroville

112Vaitilingam, A., La pensée tamoule dans l’œuvre du Swami Ramalingam et d’autres sittars [2003] ouvrage publié sous l’égide du Temple de Siva, 72 rue des Provinces, Savigny le Temple, 77176.

113Translation with commentaries and a study (in which are excerpts from Tayumanavar et al.) of nearly 200 poems of Tiruvaruṭpā by Vaḷḷalār Rāmaliṅkar, (436 pages), a French civil servant born in Pondicherry in 1930.

Prose, modern and contemporary literature

114M. L'Abbé J.-A. Dubois, Le Pantchatantra ou Les cinq ruses, Fables du Brahme Vichnou-Sarma; Aventures de Paramartta, et autres contes, le tout traduit pour la première fois sur les originaux indiens, Paris, J.-S. Merlin, 1826.

115Reprint, without change but with 13 etchings by Léonce Petit, Paris, A. Barraud, 1872.

116Aventures du gourou Paramarta, conte drôlatique indien, traduit par l’Abbé Dubois, avec de nombreuses illustrations par Bernay & Catelain, Paris, A. Barraud, 1877.

117Separate edition with a preface by the well known literary critic and chronicler Francisque Sarcey.

118Les huit aventures du Gourou Paramartta, traduites par Gérard Devèze, Bruxelles, 1890.

119Devèze had been a student of Julien Vinson.

120The Tamil original is by the Italian Jesuit, Beschi (1680-1747). It was published in London, in 1822 by Benjamin Babington, with an English translation, and in Pondicherry, in 1845, with a Latin translation.

121Natesa Sastri, Le Porteur de Sachet, traduction de J.-H. Rosny, Paris, E. Dentu, 1892, in the “Petite Collection Guillaume”.

122Translation of “The satchel-bearer”, one of the famous Indian Folk-tales by Natesa Sastri (1859-1906) first published separately in the Indian Antiquary, and then collected in a single volume in 1893. The Tamil title, Tūkkutūkki, is made into a proper name in the French version. This story happens to be the first title selected for a collection which, one year later, would include L’exil de Rama, an episode of the Ramayana. It was intended to give to selected readers an opportunity to discover leisurely and in extenso some of those texts which usually only linguists deal with, their feverish activity not benefiting anyone else. The Tamil text has been reprinted in Madras, Vaijayanti Press, 1914 as the fifth volume of the serial Purātana navīna katāmañcari.

123What happened later on? Not much, with the exception of four Indian folktales published by Mallarmé (Paris, 1927, probably written around 1893; see the edition by Jean-Pierre Dhainault, L’Insulaire, Paris, 1998).

124Légendes de l’Inde du Sud, Recueillies au Kérala par Reade Wood, Traduit du Malayalam par Michèle Esclapez et Reade Wood, Gallimard, Folio Junior, 1985.

125The original is in Malayalam only but is quite relevant to Tamil folk-lore too; this collection has no equivalent in:

126Contes et Légendes de l’Inde, Pondichéry, 1984, Collection Fleuve et Flamme, publiée par le Conseil International de la Langue Française.

127Bilingual volume prepared at the French Lycée of Pondicherry; the language is Tamil but the content (Rāmāyaṇa, Nala…) is pan Indian. More local in many respects are the following:

128S. Madanacalliany Putucceri nattupura patalkal, Les Chansons folk-loriques de Pondichéry, Pondichéry, 1995.

129Bilingual collection, it contains many texts previously published in various journals. The content is different from the corpus collected by Josiane Racine for anthropological purpose.

130Léonce Cadelis also collected and translated some folk songs from Pondicherry but no printed version has been available to us.

131S. Madanacalliany Maturaiviran alankaracintu, Pondicherry, 2008.

132French translation of a Tamil folksong “from the French islands” that is from Tamil communities established in Guadeloupe or La Réunion.

133S. Madanacalliany Sujatha, Fleurs campagams sur toute la rive, roman tamij Pondicherry, 2005 (translation of the novel karaiyellām ceṇpakappū by Sujatha).

134S. Madanacalliany Contes de Pondichéry, Inde du Sud, Paris, Karthala, 2003.

135In fact the contribution of Pondicherry to the discovery, through French, of contemporary Tamil literature centres more upon the works of two great poets:

136Soupramania Baradi, poète du pays tamoul, Pages choisies, Gouvernement de Pondichéry, 1982,

137A collective publication of prose and verse translations for the centenary of the poet.

138Dêva Koumaran, Le poëte Tamoul Baradi, Poète de la Libération indienne, Paris, 1984

139Baradi Daçan, L’écume de la mer, traduit du Tamoul par Léonce Cadelis, La pensée universelle, Paris, 1979

140Bharathidassan, Picirandéar, Tragédie, traduit du tamoul par Léonce Cadelis, Pondichéry, s.d.

141Baradidassane Candi, comédie, Traduit du tamoul par G. David, sl nd [Pondicherry, 1991].

142French translation of Bharati Tacan, Kaṟkaṇṭu, a social drama on the theme of the story of Ciṟutoṇṭar, and one of his most significant works; it is published by the Alliance Française de Pondichéry and includes an informative introduction on the author and on contemporary Tamil drama.

143Sébastien, A., La Culture Française dans l’œuvre de Baradidassane, Pondichéry, 1993.

144Informative, supplying more evidence of the ideological impact of the poet and containing some excerpts in translation.

145C. N. Annadurai, Râdâ de Rangoon, traduit par Léonce Cadelis, Publications Orientalistes de France, Paris, 1985.

146100 Poésies de Kannadasane, Poète tamoul, Traduites par Jean-Marie Julia et Jacques Natali, Editions lyonnaises d’art et d’histoire, Lyon, 1991.

147This introduction to the most popular poet of Tamil contemporary literature is, unfortunately, a good example of a book which never reaches the audience it deserves.

148Turning to contemporary prose, two anthologies are available, rather different in content and purpose. The first, with eleven texts of nine living writers, conforms to the taste of the average Tamil reader; the second, with twenty texts/authors is more innovative in its selection:

149L’épreuve du feu, Nouvelles tamoules contemporaines, Textes recueillis et présentés par Madanagobalane, Professeur à l’Université de Madras avec le concours de R. Kichenamourty Professeur à l’Université de Pondichéry, Samhita Publications, Chennai, 2001.

150L’arbre nâgalinga, Nouvelles d’Inde du Sud, choisies et traduites du tamoul par François Gros et Kannan M., Avant-propos et postface de François Gros, éditions de l’Aube, 2002.

151In 2007, the publisher, for commercial reasons, took the initiative of splitting the collection up and redistributing the texts into two independent volumes of nine and eleven texts, under her own titles.

152Viramma, Josiane et Jean-Luc Racine, Une vie paria. Le rire des asservis, Inde du Sud, Coll. Terre Humaine, Plon/Unesco, Paris, 1995.

153This life story of a traditional Dalit storyteller is not exactly a translation and the Tamil original may not exist as such. However the confidences of Viramma are largely her own, and echo her own words.

154Bama, sangati, roman traduit du tamoul par Josiane Racine, éditions de l’Aube, 2002.

155K. Rajanarayanan, Kopallakirāmam tranlated by Elisabeth Sethupathy; under preparation (translation revised with the author in 2007).

156A first draft of this article was published by the Institut National des Langues et civilization Orientales (INALCO) without revision by the author as a follow up of the 2002 Indian Year of the "Belles étrangères", (Vernacular literatures from India in French translations). Later it appeared in Ragmala Les littératures en langues indiennes traduites en français, Anthologie, Ouvrage édité par Anne Castaing, préface de K. Satchidanandan, Collection "Poches Langues et Mondes", L'Asiathèque, Paris, 2005.


1 A. Madanagopalane, K. S. Raghavan, A. Mudhavali, Catalogue des ouvrages français en Inde, Madras 1988.

2 IITS publication.

3 Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters, History of European Reactions to Indian Art, O. U. P. 1977.

4 “Esquisse d’un Catalogue raisonné des traductions du Tamoul en Français” in Ragmala, Les littératures en langues indiennes traduites en français, L’Asiathèque 2005.

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 2009

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