World-renowned linguist and lover of Malayalam Prof Asher passed away: Prof MN Karassery to lead tributes on behalf of Keralites in UK – UKMALAYALEE
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World-renowned linguist and lover of Malayalam Prof Asher passed away: Prof MN Karassery to lead tributes on behalf of Keralites in UK

Thursday 12 January 2023 8:32 AM UTC

By A Staff Reporter

LONDON Jan 11: Ronald E. Asher, a world-renowned linguist and multilingual scholar who studied Malayalam and brought it all over the world through his famous translations of Malayalam literature, has passed away at the age of 96.

Prof MN Karassery will do the lead talk on Saturday January 14 at the Kerala House on behalf of Keralites to pay tributes to Late Prof Asher. The commemorative event will begin at 6pm on Saturday January 14 at Kerala House, 671 Romford Road London.

Prof M.N. Karassery, who had a long association with Prof. Asher, was at Newham in London on Wednesday, but could not visit Prof. Asher’s family. Prof. Asher had been to Prof. Karassery’s house when he visited Kerala in 2012.

Prof Asher passed away on December 26, 2022, said his student and Central University of Kerala Associate Professor P. Sreekumar quoting Prof. Asher’s son David Asher from Scotland. There was uncertainty among the writers and linguists in Kerala and Tamil Nadu about Prof. Asher’s death as none could contact the British linguist’s family and thus the news came out only a few weeks later.

Prof. Asher started his relation with India in 1953 when he reached Changam in North Arcot district of Tamil Nadu as an assistant lecturer in linguistics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He turned to Malayalam in 1963.

Ronald E. Asher was born in Gringley-on-the-Hill, Nottinghamshire, England on 23 July 1926 to Ernest and Doris (Hurst) Asher. He won a scholarship to study at the King Edward VI Grammar School at Retford, Nottinghamshire. Asher completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1950 and was certified in the phonetics French in 1951 from the University College London. He did doctoral research on 16th-century French literature and received Ph.D. in 1955 from the University College London.

According to Dr. Sreekumar, he was a professor of linguistics with God’s own signature on his heart in Tamil and Malayalam. A linguist who specialised in Dravidian languages, Prof. Asher is the most intimate European translator who popularised modern literature of Tamil and Malayalam in English.

Prof. Asher translated several books in Malayalam and Tamil into English. He also wrote many literary reviews about Malayalam and Tamil literature.

Prof. Asher was a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and an Honorary Fellow of the Sahitya Akademi.

He reportedly was injured after a fall on the university campus and was confined to his home.

Dr. Sreekumar said that Prof. Asher had acquired the goodness of Tamil and Malayalam. “He was the first true ambassador of Malayalam and Tamil to the world.”

Asher translated Malayalam novelist Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s 1947 published work Thottiyude Makan as Scavenger’s Son in 1975. He published Me Grandad’ad an Elephant: Three Stories of Muslim Life in South India in 1980 which collectively translated another Malayalam novelist Vaikom Muhammad Basheer’s three works; Balyakalasakhi (Childhood Friend, 1944), Ntuppuppakkoranendarnnu (My Grandad Had an Elephant, 1951), and Pathummayude Aadu (Pathumma’s Goat, 1959). Asher mentioned that the translation for the works of Basheer and Thakazhi was challenging due to their “unparalleled” style and content.

In 2000, he translated Atlas of the World’s Languages (1994) into Japanese as Sekai Minzoku Gengo Chizu. In 2002, Asher translated Malayalam novelist and short-story writer K. P. Ramanunni’s debut novel Sufi Paranja Katha, published in 1993, as What the Sufi said with N. Gopalakrishnan.

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