Polyglot RE Asher, who translated Basheer's novels into English, is no more

Ronald E Asher - Basheer
Combo image of Ronald E Asher (L) Photo: PN Sreevalsan /Manorama and Vaikom Muhammed Basheer. Photo: Manorama archive

The British linguist and specialist in Dravidian languages Ronald Eaton Asher, who translated major works of Vaikom Muhammed Basheer and other Malayalam writers into English, has passed away. He was 96.

He died on December 26, 2022. His demise was announced by his son to writer PP Sreekumar through an email. 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, Asher was renowned for taking the fame of Malayalam literature all over the world through his translations.

Asher translated Basheer's Balyakalasakhi, Ntuppuppakkoranandarnnu, Pathummayude Aadu, Thakazhi Sivashankarapillai's Thottiyude Makan, Muttathu Varkey's Evil Spirit and K P Ramanunny's Sufi Paranja Katha, among others were translated into English.

He stayed in Kerala for a long time and researched the Malayalam language. Kerala Sahitya Akademi has honoured him with a fellowship.

Asher, who obtained his PhD from London University in 1955, visited India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka for four years to research on the Tamil language. From 1965 to 1993, he was a professor at the University of Edinburgh. He also served as visiting professor of Malayalam at the University of Michigan in 1968 and at the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, in 1995.

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