Sub-continental writing very metropolitan: Ira PandeMay 9th, 2011 - 1:35 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, May 9 (IANS) Literature from the sub-continent is very metropolitan and is being produced by a certain kind of writers who have great felicity with the language but little natural spontaneity, says award-winning writer Ira Pande.
Pande, winner of the Crossword-Vodafone Award for Best Translation, has been nominated as the chair of the jury for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature-2012.
Other jury members include Alastair Niven, Fakrul Alam, Faiza S. Khan and Marie Brenner.
The $50,000 prize instituted in 2011 for the best South Asian fiction was won by H.M. Naqvi for his novel “Home Boy”.
“We are looking at good writing, translations, fiction and novellas for the DSC 2012 long list. Generally, I am tired of the literature coming out of the sub-continent. It is very metropolitan. It is being written by a kind of writers who have great felicity with language. The natural spontaneity gets buried somewhere,” Pande told IANS.
She said the “bhasa” (vernacular) literature in the country connects with the small towns in India and worlds which are more real, reflecting the changes taking place.
“That is the world that will have to come out in good writing. It must have a cross-pollination of cultures,” Pande said.
The writer said good quality literature was coming out of smaller towns in lesser known languages.
“All these (new generation) Pakistani writers have a strong connect with their cultures. For example, Nadeem Aslam has a strong connect with Urdu writing and the different rhythms in the oral traditions like spinning stories within stories.
“The traditions should not reflect in an old-fashioned way, but certain traditions should be preserved in new writing,” the writer said.
According to Pande, “two-thirds of writers for the DSC list should be from South Asia”.
“We don’t know what is happening in countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, northeastern India, Ladakh and Jammu,” she added.
The writer said “translation was an important way to bring out hidden talent.
“In a good translation, equal weightage should be given to the original work and the translated work. Sometimes a brilliant book can be incompetently translated and vice-versa. The quality of translation is very important,” Pande said.
When it comes to translating vernacular literature, English is a very flat language, Pande said.
“One cannot distinguish between ‘tum’ and ‘aap’ (in Hindi), both of which are addressed by an impersonal ‘you’ in English. The roughness or the gentleness of the vernacular prose has to come out in the way sentences are framed,” Pande said, dwelling on the difficulties in translating vernacular literature in English.
According to her, the wave of diasporic writing that came out of India a few decades ago spoke of a different kind of culture - which is now a “finished world”.
“I hope the prize will eventually convince writers fixated on metropolitan cities (and sensibilities) to move beyond the comfortable zone and the homogeneous mould,” she said.
The writer has authored five books and has translated a large volume of Hindi literature, including those by her mother Shivani.
Pande’s books include “Beyond Degrees: Finding Success in Higher Education”, “Diddi: My Mother’s Voice”, “India 60: Towards a New Paradigm” “India China: Neighbours Strangers” and “The Great Divide: India and Pakistan”.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: asian fiction, aslam, cross pollination, faiza, good writing, india ladakh, jammu, jury members, marie brenner, naqvi, natural spontaneity, niven, northeastern india, novellas, oral traditions, pakistani writers, pande, quality literature, south asian literature, vernacular literature