A few personal words from the translator, Janet Hujon, about why she has written this book, why it's important that it should be widely read, and why the project is dear to her:
"I was motivated to write this book not only because 'Tales of Darkness and Light' is not widely known in English, but also because it is not well-known by many in India. There are those (who are not native speakers of Khasi) who recognise the poem's greatness but they are few and far between, partly because Khasi is a minority language. Northeast India has 'exotic' connotations, because unlike the dominant Hindu and Muslim identities we did not have a script until relatively recently and were considered 'backward'. Those old colonial prejudices towards the East have played a role in shaping the rest of India's comparative ignorance of life in Northeast India and translating Tham’s work into English has, perhaps paradoxically, offered one way to address this issue.
What really made me take on the challenge to translate, however, was my late father's belief that I should do it. The relatives of the poet also felt that my long association with English and the fact that I still speak my own language made me the ideal candidate to carry the torch! I hope the book will do justice to their faith in me."
-- Janet Hujon, March 2018
Soso Tham (1873–1940), the acknowledged poet laureate of the Khasis of northeastern India, was one of the first writers to give written poetic form to the rich oral tradition of his people.
Poet of landscape, myth and memory, Tham paid rich and poignant tribute to his tribe in his masterpiece The Old Days of the Khasis. Janet Hujon’s vibrant new translation presents the English reader with Tham’s long poem, which keeps a rich cultural tradition of the Khasi people alive through its retelling of old narratives and acts as a cultural signpost for their literary identity.
Tales of Darkness and Light will be enjoyed by anyone who loves good poetry. It is essential reading for those with an interest in Indian literature and culture and in the interplay between oral traditions and written literary forms.
This edition includes:
• English translation
• Critical apparatus
• Embedded audio recordings of the original text
This translation will contribute to giving Soso Tham the wider recognition he deserves as a poet, and more generally to introduce Western readers to the rich literary traditions of northeast India.
—Dr Vayu Naidu, SOAS, University of London
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A campaign is running to unglue Tales of Darkness and Light: Soso Tham’s The Old Days of the Khasis!
The rights holder, Open Book Publishers , has agreed to release Tales of Darkness and Light: Soso Tham’s The Old Days of the Khasis to the world as a Creative Commons licensed ebook (CC BY) if ungluers can join together to raise $5,000 by March 30, 2018, 11:59 p.m.. You can help!
Campaign details: the fine print
- Literary Collections / Asian / Indic
- Literary Criticism / Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology
- Poetry / Asian / General
- Poetry anthologies