The Interior LandscapeClassical Tamil Love Poems
Edited and translated from the Tamil by A. K. Ramanujan
In The Interior Landscape the great Indian poet and translator A.K. Ramanujan has drawn on a celebrated anthology of classical Tamil poetry to compose an unforgettable sequence of love poems. The story unfolds in a series of dramatic exchanges between a shifting array of characters—the lovers, relatives, friends, rivals, and sundry passersby—and as it does we are conducted through five phases of love, from first meeting, anxiety, infidelity and separation to final union, each associated with a lush interior landscape of its own. Immersed in the glories of the natural world, the poems evoke the whole spectrum of love while also capturing the gossip and wisecracking of those who look on from outside.
With The Interior Landscape, Ramanujan uncovered ancient Tamil literature for the world beyond and, being not only a scholar but a poet himself, his English versions proved the original to be exquisite poetry.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of The Interior Landscape.... It showed that translation called for as much in the way of creativity as it did in the way of scholarship.
—Nakul Krishna, The Caravan
Seekers after happiness should turn to Ramanujan's Interior Landscape.
—Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, from Partial Recall
In their antiquity and in their contemporaneity, there is not much else in any Indian literature equal to these quiet and dramatic Tamil poems. In their values and stances, they represent a mature classical poetry: passion is balanced by courtesy, transparency by ironies and nuances of design, impersonality by vivid detail, leanness of line by richness of implication. These poems are not just the earliest evidence of the Tamil genius. The Tamils, in all their two thousand years of literary effort, wrote nothing better.
—A. K. Ramanujan, from the afterword