Tamil Literary Garden awards a ‘labour of love’

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Think of it as the Booker Prize for Tamil literature. That’s how Appadurai Muttulingam explains the Tamil Literary Garden Awards, which recognize the best and the brightest of the year’s Tamil literature from around the world.

The international awards, based in the GTA, are the brainchild of Muttulingam, a local and internationally acclaimed writer who left his native Sri Lanka decades ago.

The 75-year-old retired chartered accountant, who spent much of his career working for the United Nations and the World Bank, first came up with the idea of an award for Tamil literature in 2001.

The awards were a “labour of love” motivated by the desire to maintain a language that is 2,300 years old. Muttulingam, who now makes his home in Markham, was fearful, as were others, that not only the Tamil language but also its literature would fade into obscurity.

He wanted to do something to prevent that, especially since many of the best examples of Tamil literature were burned in a fire at the Jaffna Public Library in Sri Lanka in 1981.

Muttulingam and a group of four friends came up with the idea of the yearly awards to celebrate and preserve Tamil literature. The group is also responsible for publishing English translations to allow everyone can enjoy the works.

The awards ceremony takes place in June in Toronto with all the glitz and glamour of the Booker and Giller prizes, Muttulingam says.

This year, the Literary Garden will honour a number of international Tamil writers, including Nanjil Nadan, whom the awards committee named its recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2012. His work captures the life and culture of Nanjil Nadu — an ancient Tamil region. His win was covered by India’s The Hindu.

The short list of other award winners — for poetry, fiction and non-fiction — will be announced closer to the event.

Muttulingam, a well-known writer within…read more

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