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Deft Leg Work

If Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the best writer in Malayalam, then Gita Krishnankutty's translation proves that Malyalam reads much better when written in English.

Deft Leg Work
Ravi Sankar K.V
Deft Leg Work
Two Novellas—Praise The Lord; What News, Pilate?
By Paul Zacharia
Rs 120; Pages: 108
Paul Zacharia’s novellas confront the reader with the query, “How to be a man in the age of the war of the sexes?” But these are no stories of repressed desire or gender politics; no expressions of an authorial ego; no explorations of the male psyche. They are experiments in addressing the other, God, the world and readers. To be a man is a manner of calling out to men and women and of responding to such calls.

Praise the Lord is a soliloquy of Joy, a happily-married Catholic rubber planter. What News, Pilate? are correspondences between Pontius Pilate and Titus Antonius. Though the protagonists are men, their speech reaches us only through the prismatic presence of women—Ansy, Joy’s wife, and Ruth, Pilate’s secretary. Here Zacharia risks what Christ never did—assign his words only to his male disciples. Pilate conceals his letters from his woman secretary. But women have a thousand ears and no speech ever escapes them. In their pretended passivity they eavesdrop on men’s dream talks, false praises and impotent prayers.

These stories explore the logic of deception which animates the vocative. “What news” is the Malayali way of asking “How are you?”. This question is not meant to elicit a truthful answer. Even if your life is in a mess, thou shalt politely tell the lie that ‘I am fine’. It is an address to the listener or reader soliciting further communication. Edo reader...Zacharia calls out to you in Malayalam. By lending his ear, the reader becomes the victim and witness to a lie. Thus he becomes a man.
During a letter-writing session, Ruth plays a game of pretence with the old Pilate, exposing her pretty leg to him. As punishment, her sandals pinch her feet on her way to witness the resurrection of Christ. And her feet are redeemed only by the touch of Christ. For Zacharia, writing is this ‘leg’ work.

If Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the best writer in Malayalam, then Gita Krishnankutty’s translation proves that Malayalam reads much better when written in English.

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