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The Interior Landscape

The Interior Landscape

Classical Tamil Love Poems

Edited and translated from the Tamil by A. K. Ramanujan

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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. Edited and translated from the Tamil by A. K. Ramanujan

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Poets
ISBN: 9781590176788
Pages: 126
Publication Date:


Written by both men and women during the first three centuries of the Common Era, these short love poems feature intimate, finely etched scenes of yearning that are set in a series of vivid landscapes, including forests and riparian environments. Ramanujan, a celebrated poet and scholar, provides a detailed chart of poetic devices that helps orient the reader to what may be an unfamiliar set of conventions—and to the old idea that convention itself, rather than novelty, might be a virtue.
—Walt Hunter, The Atlantic

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.
—Girish Karnad

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

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