Tributes to a Norwich-based writer and translator who championed the voices of Tamil people

Lakshmi Holmström. Photo: supplied.

Lakshmi Holmström. Photo: supplied. - Credit: supplied

Tributes have been paid to a Norwich-based writer, translator and teacher who championed the voices of Tamil people and was made an MBE for her services to literature.

Lakshmi Holmström, who has died aged 80, was well known for translating Indian and Sri Lankan literature from Tamil into English and was also a critical writer and an editor.

She wrote more than 20 books and won many awards, including honours in India, Canada and America.

Born in Salem, near Bangalore, in India, Lakshmi studied at the Women's Christian College in Madras before going to the University of Oxford where she met her future husband, Mark Holmström. They moved to Norwich in the 1960s when Mark became a senior lecturer in social anthropology at the University of East Anglia and Lakshmi taught at Bowthorpe High School. From 2003 until 2006 she became the first Royal Literary Fund fellow specialising in literary translation at the UEA.

Lakshmi was in her 50s when Indian and Sri Lankan literature, and specifically Tamil literature, became her focus. Among her books were The Inner Courtyard: Stories by Indian Women, which was published in 1990, and her most recent book of poetry, with Sascha Ebeling, Lost Evenings, Lost Lives, which was published this year and was an impassioned account of the suffering of the Tamil people, especially women, during in the civil war in Sri Lanka. Lakshmi also translated short stories and novels by Ambai (the pseudonym of CS Lakshmi), Ashokamitran, Bama, Imayam, Sundara Ramaswamy, Na Muthuswamy, Cheran, Mowni, A Madhaviah, Salma and Pudhumaipithan.


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Lakshmi's close friend Amanda Hopkinson said: 'Author, translator and scholar, she was renowned across continents for her pioneering work in bringing Tamil writers to our attention. Not just writers in general, for Lakshmi mined a common cause with her fellow women, above all with the most daring and outspoken of her culture.'

Kate Griffin, associate programme director at Writers' Centre Norwich, said Lakshmi was widely recognised as the preeminent translator of Tamil literature as well as a dedicated teacher and mentor.

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'Lakshmi was an inspiration to all of us who knew her, and we will miss her very much,' she said.

Lakshmi, who died on May 6, is survived by her husband Mark, their two daughters, Radhika and Savitri, grandchildren, Miriam, Naomi, Isaac and Noah, and her sister Nalini.

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