Translating the poem together as a group we had divergent views of how best to read the poem, we were lucky to have several Tamil speakers in the group who could see the logic of both sides. Some felt that the killings enacted by Gnanandeepan in the poem are entirely metaphorical and, in a sense they relate to the death of the ‘Tamil’ the subject was as well as the living dead ‘white’ figure he must now be in this strange, ill-defined European country. In this reading, the final stanza would be spoken as a more general (and entirely earnest) plea - something closer to: ‘Sir! Again and again / in my time there has been torture, displacement / danger and hardship / where to begin’. The other interpretation, and the one that we have leaned more towards in the final translation presented here allows for the possibility of former interpretation but also allows for the possibility of the killings to be metaphorical or not and allows for the final stanza requesting asylum to be unclear in its claims. In part, we were guided by the suggestions of Sugan’s wider critical views on Sri Lankan poetry of war and trauma that Hari, our guest translator, explained.
Edward Doegar, Commissioning Editor