Quis Custodiet Ipsos Copycats? or…

My choice of blog titles is steadily degrading (and so is my Latin). I guess you can blame it on the fact that I am hardly in touch with my blogger self these days. Or whatever!

Anyway self explanatory email/ letter written below by my mother to a publishing house. I only despair at the effort put in by the translator to translate whatever was originally in English back into English. Its a bit like the story of Hamilton Bridge in the yesteryears Madras (Chennai now) which because the locals couldn’t pronounce it correctly came to being pronounced in variations of Hamiton, Ambaton, Ambattan and eventually was renamed in English as Barber’s bridge (Ambattan meaning barber).

So what is original and what remains a copy is the question…or not!



The Director
Blaft Publications

19/12/2010, Chennai
I have recently read reviews of your translation compilations- Tamil Pulp Fiction (I and II) in the newspapers and also happened to browse through a volume of Tamil Pulp Fiction (II) at the Full Circle Book store this afternoon and found that it included a story acknowledged to the Tamil writer Medhavi translated into English.
It is unfortunate that today almost no one is aware of the fact that Medhavi during his time copiously copied stories (without acknowledgement) written by an English author- Edgar Wallace in the 1920s and 30s. Edgar Wallace was a soldier, poet, war correspondent and a playwright. In fact he was the original author of the story of King Kong. Edgar Wallace was a prolific author and contributed a large number of works to fiction written in the English language. A full list of his works and more background on him can be obtained here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Wallace) or (http://www.edgarwallace.org/)
The story that you have included in your collection- Maya Samadiyil Marma Pudaiyal is a copy of Edgar Wallace’s ‘The Door with 7 Locks’. A reading of the original book would reveal to you that the work written by Medhavi is a word by word copy with only the character names and locations being changed. Some of the many other works that Medhavi copied unfairly and without acknowledgement from Edgar Wallace include Thalai Vetti Dharmarajan (The Avenger), Pudaiyalai Thediya Poovaiyar (The Daughters of the Night), Emakadagan (The Squeaker), Maagaali Bavanam (The Frightened Lady), Malayala Cheetin Marumam (The Daffodil Mystery) and so on. I am happy to provide a more comprehensive list if required.
Eventually when Medhavi ran out of books written by Edgar Wallace to copy, he started copying works by Agatha Christie as well (Agatha Christie’s ‘Taken at the Flood’ was a victim of one such copying attempt).
You had mentioned in the introduction to the compilation that the author had spent many an hour hunting down Medhavi’s book at Easwari Library (Chennai). It is an irony that a deeper search at the same library would have yielded the original works by Edgar Wallace.
It is my opinion that Medhavi certainly does not merit the place of honour provided to him both within the book and by press reviews of the book among more original Tamil authors. What Medhavi was, was a talented translator who took undue credit for actions that would certainly be eligible for stringent legal action in today’s world.
The least one could do would be to give Edgar Wallace his rightful place in the collection that has been denied to him by Medhavi.
Best Wishes

Nirmala Ramanujan


Edgar Wallace (from http://www.edgarwallace.org)

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Sunanda says:

    Aha! This is interesting. Kudos to aunty for writing to the publishers. I really hope someone takes notice. This Medhavi guy could’ve just as well claimed to have translated- he would still be famous as a translator and could’ve got the thrill of bringing English literature closer to the Tamil reading audience. Sigh! It would be too optimistic to expect a response from the publishers I guess, but I hope she does.
    PS: Yes, what’s with the title?

  2. Suba says:

    huh!! If only they would respond!

  3. sr256 says:

    Hey guys, the publishers did respond but they hadn’t read any of Edgar Wallace’s books. But they did mention that on reading it if they do find it to be a copy they will make an acknowledgement to Edgar Wallace in the next edition.

  4. Rakesh Khanna says:

    Hi, I just saw this blog post now. We did indeed goof with the Medhavi story, fooled into thinking it was entirely original when it was in fact an embellished translation. Since the Wallace original is out of copyright, we believe we didn’t infringe anyone’s legal rights (phew)… but in any case, future editions of Tamil Pulp Vol. II will not include this one.

    Thank you, Blaft Publications

  5. sr256 says:

    Dear Rakesh, Thanks for the previous emails and also these comments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s