Sangam House



The Tranquebar Project

Always a local port, Tharangambadi (“the place of the singing waves”) became an outpost of the short-lived Danish East India Company in the early 17th century. The Danes built a factory there, a place for civilians to live and trade, and transformed the Tamil name into the equally lilting Tranquebar. About a century later, in 1712, two Lutheran missionaries, Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Pluetschau, brought us a great treasure to the little town – they established a printing press, the first one on the sub-continent – and began to publish in the local language. Their first printed work was a Tamil translation of the Bible. Ziegenbalg was determined to share his great treasure and soon, printing technology moved to other parts of the sub-continent. By 1845, the British East India Company had taken over the small Danish colonial holdings and over-ridden what was left of Danish culture there.

But Tranquebar’s special place in the history of Indian print and publishing remains. As does Denmark’s barely known contribution to this remarkable moment that shaped the flow of literature and advanced the development of literary cultures in the centuries that followed. Along with its supporting partners, Sangam House is proud to acknowledge this historical moment with an anthology of writing from Danish and Indian writers.

Writers at Tranquebar in August 2011

Chandrahas Choudhury is a novelist and literary critic based in Mumbai. He is the author of the novel Arzee the Dwarf (2009), which was recently named by World Literature Today magazine as one of 60 essential English-language works of modern Indian literature, and the editor of the just-published anthology India: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press, USA, and HarperCollins India). Choudhury’s book reviews and essays have appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, and Foreign Policy. He writes the literary blog The Middle Stage, and is also a contributing editor of  The Caravan. He was recently a Fellow of the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa.

Merete Pryds Helle has studied literature, medieval history and Near Eastern Archaeology at Copenhagen University. She published her first novel in 1990 and since then published several novels, short story collections, a little poetry, drama for the radio, children’s books and literature for SMS and the iPad. Merete has lived for eight years in Italy but now lives in Copenhagen. She is married with two children.

Benn Q. Holm works and lives in Copenhagen with wife and three noisy children. Has published ten novels. These days, he is putting the finishing touches on number eleven, Byen og Øen (The City And The Island).

Giriraj Kiradoo has published poems, criticism, translations and few short stories in a number of Hindi journals and publications, some of which have been translated into Urdu, Marathi, Catalan and English. He is a translator in Hindi, English and Rajasthani currently translating two novels -Hanif Kureishi’s Intimacy into Hindi and Gitanjali Shree’s Tirohit into Hindi as well as two Sahitya Akademi Award winning Hindi poets, Shree Kant Verma and Arun Kamal into, English. He is the founder of Udaharan, an alternative publisher and independent forum. Besides teaching English at a University, he is an editor with Siyahi and runs Pratilipi, a bi-lingual journal.

Dilip Kumar, whose mother tongue is Gujarati, a well-known short story writer in Tamil with several awards to his credit. He has published two collections of short stories (Moongil Kuruthu, Cre-A, Chennai, 1985, and Kaduvu, Cre-A, Chennai, 2000) and a critical work on Mauni – a pioneer of Tamil short stories (Mouniyudan Koncha Thooram, Vanadhi Pathipagam, Chennai, 1992). He lives in Chennai and runs a small literary bookshop.

Mette Moestrup made her debut as a poet in 1998 with Tattoos, followed by Golden Delicious in 2002 and Kingsize in 2006. Her latest book is a short novel, called Leveled to the Ground was released in 2009. She has also written two books for children. Mette performs in a sound-and-poetry duo called SHE’S A SHOW. She lives in Copenhagen and works as a teacher at the writer’s school in Göteborg, Sweden.

Ruben Palma was born in Chile, in 1954. Thanks to the United Nations and the Danish Embassy in Buenos Aires, he came to Denmark as a political refugee in 1974. He had never written before, when he began writing in Danish in 1985. Last published and performed works: short stories, poems and an opera libretto.

Kutti Revathi is the pen name of Dr. S. Revathi. She has published three books of poetry and is the editor of Panikkudam, a literary quarterly for women’s writing and also the first Tamil feminist magazine. She holds a Bachelors degree in Siddha medicine and surgery, and is currently pursuing her doctoral research in medical anthropology at the Madras Institute of Development Studies in Chennai. Revathi received the Sigaram 15: Faces of Future award for literature from India Today (a Tamil weekly) and was awarded a travel grant in 2005 by the Sahitya Akademi to meet leading literateurs from various parts of the country.

Nilanjana Roy lives in Delhi and is a literary columnist who also writes on gender issues. Her columns currently appear in the Business Standard and the International Herald Tribune. She has spent several decades working extensively in publishing and the media; she was Senior Features Editor at the Business Standard, has been a consulting editor with Outlook and with Man’s World, and was Chief Editor at the publishing house Westland/ Tranquebar. She is the editor of Penguin India’s anthology of food writing, A Matter of Taste, and is working on a collection of essays on reading, How To Read in Indian, to be published soon by HarperCollins India.