Speaking in tongues: Literary translation as a work of art

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Dividend by language, united by translations, literature from various Indian states, as well as from regions across the world, is now within easy reach of the Indian reader. As former editorial head of Pan Macmillan, translator and founder of Ponytale Books, Pranav Kumar Singh observes: “A country’s literature is part of its soft power. Today, most Indian languages have become just a medium of communication in urban Indian households, and English has become the language of reading. Therefore, it is important to translate the best of Indian literature not only for the benefit of native non-readers, but also for the growing readership in English, both in India and abroad. With the increasing prominence of India globally, a time will come when translations will play an important role in creating an understanding of the Indian experience. On the other hand, despite everything, there will be a resurgence of Indian languages, and a consequent need for both academic and general interest reading material. Therefore, there is need to look at translations both ways.”

“One bit that needs more exploring,” adds writer, columnist, translator and head of Amnesty International India, Aakar Patel, “is the publishing of Indian languages in the Roman script. Turkey made the transition easily. What is the benefit of this? In the modern world, though mobile phones and tablets can use most scripts, it is still simpler to use the Roman. Advertising in India uses Roman-Hindi. The turn of literature will come soon.’’ Patel, like Pranav Kumar Singh, is among the few editors in the country who have the ability to straddle more than two languages with equal ease. “I am a Gujarati,” says Patel. “My favourite poet is Narsinh Mehta, and though I can recite ‘Ozymandias’ or some of Eliot’s stuff, I am moved most by [Narsinh] Mehta’s Nag Daman on the boy Krishna. I began learning Arabic many years ago and did not get far, but because the script became familiar, I began to read Urdu. There is essentially no difference between Urdu and Hindi because the grammar is the same and north Indians who familiarise themselves with the Perso-Arabic script will be surprised to know that there is hardly any difference between Urdu and Hindi.” Read more

Source: Sunday Guardian Live

 

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