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From the PublisherRather than translating a small set of poems picked out of a much larger collection, Selby translates one entire Sangam text, from the first poem to the last. In doing so, she gives the English reader a chance to see how deeply each of these poems works in relation to the ones that precede and follow it. In other words, her translation reveals the sensibility not just of individual poems but of the poetic collection itself.
The Ainkurunuru, with its exquisite haikulike poems, is, by any standard, a major South Asian literary text, eminently worthy of a good poetic translation into English. Martha Ann Selby is one of the finest translators from Tamil, Prakrit, and Sanskrit in this generation. She has a wonderful ear for the deft turn of phrase in English and is a very sensitive and erudite reader of Tamil. She has opened up the Ainkurunuru to the worldwide audience it deserves.
In Selby's exquisite translation, the Ainkurunuru can finally speak to an English-language audience. In these brief, densely packed verses, all the varieties of desire, erotic longing, jealousy, anger, infidelity, and domestic romance find their own natural landscapes. By rendering the entire anthology, Selby enables an appreciation of both the evocative individual poems and the subtle gathering architecture of the whole.