Galician Poetry Dons Tamil Robes

The author-translator duo Maria Reimondez and Thamizhachi Thangapandian deserves all praise


‘I am sorry, but I am not a coordinating conjunction, because a coordinating conjunction is always in-between and I am always, at least on both sides.’ These lines from a poem by Galician poet Maria Reimondez can well be attributed to the Galician language itself. Galician is the language spoken in Galicia, an autonomous community in the north-west corner of Spain. Galician shares most of its characteristics with Portuguese but uses Spanish spelling conventions. Some would say that Galician and Portuguese are two different languages; others would differ and claim that they are two different dialects of the same language. Presently this language is struggling to ascertain its identity and keep its originality amid forces of hegemony which undermine minor regional languages deep-seated in their own cultures.

‘Kallin Kadungopam’ (The Rage of a Stone) is the title given to the collection of Maria Reimondez’s poems translated into Tamil. These Galician poems speak about Maria’s relationship with South India and the book has both Tamil and English versions of her poems. Most of these poems were taken from her poetry book ‘Presente continuo’ (Present continuous). The translator of these poems and herself a well known poet in Tamil, Thamizhachi Thangapandian, states that these poems are meant to all the women in the world though written by someone from Galicia. In her foreword Maria laments that Galician language has been forced to become invisible and soundless and adds that it is live and struggling against power just in the mere act of refusing to die. She ends her foreword saying that Galician is the stone and the rage the reader has in his/her hand with an implicit reference to the title of the book.

It was only in the 19th century that Galician became a standardised literary language and there was a revival of this language and Galician culture. In 1978 Galician along with Spanish (Castilian), Catalan, Basque and Aranese got the official status. In Galicia students at primary and secondary level are taught both in Galician and Spanish but at university level Galicia is the prominent medium. About one thousand titles are published in Galician every year, and it is worth mentioning here that only 2.4 million people speak Galician. There is a Galician TV and a radio station. A Galician language daily too is published. Though people in Galician towns prefer to speak in Spanish, people living in rural Galicia speak Galician.

Maria says that the important thing about Galician is that it makes her feel one with speakers, writers and readers of so many other languages in the world, Tamil being one among them. Though these languages sound far apart, the awareness of otherness links her to Tamil readers. She adds that ‘without our awareness of common space of resistance in the face of hegemony communication never would take place’; these words need to be thought over in the present Indian context too.

Apart from poetry Maria writes fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. She is a translator and an activist dedicated to women’s causes. In this book there are two poems identical in their composition, which beautifully describe the women in India and Galicia respectively with the apt title ‘Grammatical Categories’. Intriguingly there are poems titled ‘New Grammar’ and ‘My Grammar’. ‘Glossary of Indian Cooking’ is a politically charged poem which subtlety exposes the food colonisation taking place in India. This is the first ever Galician language work translated into Tamil and this small, compact book of poems signifies the glorious coming together of two unique languages of the world. The author-translator duo Maria Reimondez and Thamizhachi Thangapandian deserves all praise.