Poem that tells about Karnataka

Top ten
Errors, inspiration and immortal literature

As a reader, I feel magically drawn to moving stories that are based on political, personal and historical faux pas and that develop into unforgettable literary works in the field of tension between prose and poetry.

Great literature is characterized by the fact that a unique story is told with linguistic sensitivity.

For the art of storytelling, language is just as important as the story itself. It is true that everyone has a story to tell. And it is also true that not every published work can meet high literary standards. Fortunately, there are several pearls of literature based on negligence in politics, history, or gender issues and on distortions of normality. While reading literary works that tell of the vicissitudes of life, I came across the following books, which not only testify to the great literary talent of their authors. They were also written by people who made mistakes and made a story out of them.

Here are my top 10 literary pearls on mistakes:

10. Kora

I am Tibetan
But I am not from Tibet
Never been there
Yet I dream
Of dying there

(I am Tibetan,
But I'm not from Tibet
Never been there
But I dream of it
To die there.)

In his poem "My Tibetanness" (My Tibetan Being), Tenzin Tsundue reflects on the status of Tibetan refugees in India or basically anywhere in the world. Kora, a collection of poems and essays, contains emotionally charged and yet simply told stories with which he wants to draw the world's attention to the complex situation of the Tibetan refugees.

9. The Adivasi Will Not Dance

No one minds what we eat here ... And we don’t mind what others eat ...

(Nobody cares what we eat here ... And we don't care what others eat ...)

"They Eat Meat" is the first story in a collection of ten stories, which take place during the riots in Gujarat and tell of the discrimination against an Adivasi (member of an indigenous people) in India. In his award-winning collection The Adivasi Will Not Dance the author Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar creates linguistic images from an inside view and with simple words.

8. Amma

Apparently, I weighed three and a half kilos at birth and remained chubby until I was four or five. "By the time I carried you to and back from a place, my hips would break," Amma often complained, though her tone would give away her pride.

(Apparently I weighed three and a half kilos when I was born and was a chubby guy until the age of four or five. "Whenever I carried you around, I almost collapsed," Amma complained again and again, although her tone of voice betrayed her pride.)

Amma is a compilation, written in Tamil and translated into English, of 22 non-fictional stories in which Perumal Murugan tells of his mother's life. My personal favorite story in this collection is "An Invitation from the Moon," in which Murugan's mother, one child on her back and the other by the hand, locks up her drunken husband and walks into the fields to weed in the moonlight . In Amma a monument is erected to an intrepid country woman.

7. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

In the final seconds before her brain surrendered, Tequila Leila recalled the taste of a single malt whiskey.

(In the last few seconds before her brain gave up completely, it conjured up memories of single malt whiskey. [Translated from the English by Michaela Grabinger])

Many stories have been told about prostitutes, but Elif Shafak approaches the subject in a stylistically appealing way. In Istanbul, her protagonist lets her entire life pass in review in the 10 minutes and 38 seconds that remain before her transition into the afterlife.

The novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 and takes readers on a journey through the views, sounds and smells of the life of its protagonist Tequila Leila.

6. Gulabi talkies

It was a town with only one street running through it, like a hair parting ...

(A single street ran through this city like the part of a hair ...)

In the short story Gulabi talkie In a small town in Karnataka, everything revolves around the opening of a theater and the associated emancipation of the local women. The collection of twenty short stories, originally written by Vydehi on Kannada, provides a reflection of the everyday life of Indian small town residents. With her poetic prose, the author tells of the resilience of the people in rural South India in the face of suffering and poverty.

5. Em and the Big Hoom

I lost my faith, as an hourglass loses sand ...

(I lost my confidence like an hourglass lost the sand ...)

Mental illness is a reality in societies like India, where the word “psychiatrist” is taboo for many. At the beginning of the story, the readers get to know Imelda and her family in the psychiatry department of the JJ Hospital in Bombay. Her son, who listens to her story, and her husband, whom she calls Angel Ears because, in her opinion, his ears are particularly cute.

Jerry Pinto crosses in his award-winning novel Em and the Big Hoom in the style of an educational novel, the deeply personal story of his own youth.

4. Time Stops at Shamli

Scattered words of condolence passed back and forth like dragonflies in the wind ...

(Words of sympathy buzzed through the air like dragonflies ...)

At the grave of his own father, a young man ponders the possibilities of leaving the grave - about a root, a flower and finally a seed that is carried away by a bird. Time stops at Shamli begins with "the funeral" and contains twenty more stories from small towns in the Himalayan region, which the masterful narrator Ruskin Bond is able to put into words as simply as ingeniously and to fill with the magic of everyday life. According to Bond, the real India can be found in the small towns.

3. The Tin Drum

When Mama died, the red flames on the rim of my drum faded a little; the white paint, however, became whiter and so bright that even Oskar sometimes had to close his eye, dazzled.

The short protagonist Oskar Matzerath tells his story in an asylum. With the help of elements of magical realism, Matzerath takes the reader on a lively journey that extends from the beginnings to the end of Nazi Germany. The historical Bildungsroman The Tin Drum offered the perfect template for its visual implementation in an award-winning film adaptation.

2. Chasing the monsoon

Far away, I heard a noise like a deep ripping growl of thunder. After only a few heartbeats of lapsed time, I identified it, with sudden delight, as the roar of a distant tiger. At peace, I finally fell asleep ... I was awakened at dawn by a screech of peacocks.
The light was a soft dusty gray.

(In the distance I heard a sound like a deep rumble of thunder. Only a brief moment, and I realized with delight that it was indeed the distant roar of a tiger. Calmed, I finally fell asleep ... At dawn it woke me Screeching peacocks.
Everything was wrapped in a soft and dusty gray light.)

When the author Alexander Frater is being treated in a hospital for Arnold Chiari, a rare malformation of the posterior fossa, he meets his fellow patient, Mr. Baptista, and learns that the monsoon will come to Kerala on June 1st. Frater tells his doctor that he wants to go to India. He travels all over the country on the hunt for the monsoons and gets an insight into political life in the center of the country and in the states. In a breathtaking prose, the author links political events in neighboring countries, landscapes, superstitions, people and unpredictable rainfalls in this autobiographical travel report.

1. Mental Fight

Is humanity exhausted?
Individuals are, nations are,
Some civilizations are becoming so;
But humanity isn't ...

(Is humanity exhausted?
It is the people and the nations
Some civilizations are well on their way
But humanity is not ...)

At the intersection between yesterday and today, humanity, animals, trees, birds and bees are constantly endangered by epidemics, threatened acts of war and people. The hero poem Mental Fight by Ben Okri is becoming more and more important every day.


Nirmala Govindarajan works as a writer and journalist as well as a documentary filmmaker on social issues. Her new novel "Taboo" is on the shortlist for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2020. She previously published "Hunger’s Daughters" and "The Community Catalyst". She is co-author of Mind Blogs 1.0. Nirmala curates literary events and has launched the reading series “Writer's Yatra” and “Reader’s Yatra” in unusual locations. She tries her hand at the theater and plays classical piano and violin.

Translation: Translated from the English by Kathrin Hadeler
Copyright: Text: Goethe-Institut. This text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives 3.0 Germany License.

September 2020