Essential Reads | Journeys – A Poet’s Diary | A.K. Ramanujan

Editor | Poetry

A.K. Ramanujan (1929–1993) is well known as one of the finest poets, translators, folklorists, essayists and scholars of the twentieth century. His translations of ancient Tamil and medieval Kannada poetry, as well as of U.R. Anantha Murthy’s novel Samskara, are considered classics in Indian literature. A pioneering poet, he had produced during his lifetime four poetry collections in English and three in Kannada.

However, little is known about the personal material that is contained in the ‘AKR Papers’, a large treasure of literature—journals, diaries, notes—Ramanujan left behind in his prolific career: his literary footprints. He had intended to publish many of these private writings, but never did.

After his premature death in 1993, the Papers— spanning forty-nine years from 1944 to 1993—were given by his family to the Special Collections Research Center at the Joseph Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago in June 1994.

Edited by Krishna Ramanujan and Guillermo Rodríguez, Journeys offers access to Ramanujan’s hitherto unpublished personal diaries and journals from the Papers—meticulously preserved at the University of Chicago—shining new light on his creative process. It includes accounts from his travels, his thoughts on writing, many improvised as well as early poetry drafts, and dreams—the fertile grounds where the seeds for much of his later published work were planted.

Girish Karnad said: “From our first meeting I was intrigued by this [. . .] delicate man with a high-pitched voice, and a slender sensitive forefinger,  with which he punched or underlined the important points he wished to drive home [. . .] What was fascinating was the  number of subjects on which he could hold forth with insight and scintillating wit: proverbs, riddles, conjuring tricks, mathematical puzzles, folktales.”

The Editors:

Krishna Ramanujan is a science writer at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is the son of A.K. Ramanujan.

Guillermo Rodríguez is the founding director of Casa de la India, a pioneering cultural centre in Spain, which has become the model for India’s cultural diplomacy abroad. A passionate traveller, he chanced upon Indian poetry in the translations of A.K. Ramanujan during a visit to India in the early 1990s, which awakened his interest in the life and works of the poet-scholar. He is the author of When Mirrors Are Windows: A View of A.K. Ramanujan’s Poetics.

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