Whether you’re a pro at reading in Marathi, or even if you’re not and would still love to learn about Marathi literature, these are your go-to books; they were originally written in Marathi, but also beautifully translated into English. What better way to learn about a culture than dip into its literature!
Seven Sixes are Forty-Three
To say I’m a Kiran Nagarkar fan would be an understatement. Surely one of India’s most gifted authors and bilingual too! Saat Sekam Trechalis was his first book and soon became a cult classic. It was translated from the original Marathi to English by Subha Slee. Set in Mumbai and Pune, Kaushank Purandare’s story is non-linear and twisted, convoluted and complex, but immensely rewarding.
Translated into English by Professor P. Lal and Nandini Nopany, Mrityunjay by Shivaji Sawant is truly one of the great books of Marathi literature. It presents the oft retold epic from Karna’s point of view. Sawant’s Karna dazzles, braves through the toughest of times, draws empathy and makes a place in your heart forever.
Originally written in Marathi by writer-director Sachin Kundalkar (when he was 19!) and translated to English by the amazing Jerry Pinto, Cobalt Blue is the story of a sister and brother falling in love with the same tenant in their typical Maharashtrian family house in Pune. The book is divided in two and each part sees a sibling play the narrator. The result is a poignant and layered book of much beauty.
Half Open Windows
This delightfully crafted book set in Mumbai was written in Marathi by Ganesh Matkari and seamlessly translated to English by Jerry Pinto. The story moves forward in snapshots, each from the perspective of a different character. A few chapters in, you begin to join the nodes in this graph of very relatable characters and events. Mumbai is portrayed beautifully, almost as a living, breathing being and the undertone of the novel, our never-ending search for that elusive soma called success, will leave you in a state of contemplation for a while.
Written by Daya Pawar, Baluta is India’s first Dalit autobiography. Given a glowing review by none other than P. L. Deshpande at the time, Baluta is not merely a book outlining Daya Pawar’s struggle as a Dalit for equality but also of his internal struggle against himself. The author comes across as an intellectual who is able to analyze his life from the outside. It also is an important book for us privileged city folk, giving us a peek into Indian society’s complex and hollow hierarchical structures, identities and caste and gender violence. This unsettling and enlightening account of Daya Pawar’s life has been translated to English by (again!) Jerry Pinto.
People frequently get touchy about book lists and rightly so! This list is by no means exhaustive and is only indicative of what I’ve read. Recommendations are welcome!