‘Indians pay scant attention to translated literary works’

July 15th, 2009 - 2:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) Writer-editor-translator Ira Pande, a familiar face in the capital’s literary circuit, feels Indian readers do not pay much attention to “translated literary works”.

“It is because publishers do not take the trouble to source good translators or invest sufficiently in translated works,” Pande told IANS in an interview.

“Even the Sahitya Akademi has failed to promote translation for reasons that need not concern us. It seems to me that each time we present a book as a translated work, we offer an apology for writing in a language that is not the globalised and the mainstream one. This shows a terrible lack of faith in our literary worth and self-image,” Pande rued.

The writer, who edits the India International Centre (IIC)’s quarterly journal and is chief editor of the IIC’s publication department, has won her second Vodafone-Crossword literary award nomination for her book “T’TA Professor” in the translation category for 2008.

The awards will be conferred July 23.

She had earlier won a nomination in the non-fiction category for “Diddi: My Mother’s Voice”, published by Penguin in 2005.

“T’TA Professor”, a Hindi novel by former journalist and Sahitya Akademi Award winning writer Manohar Shyam Joshi (who died in 2006), is the story of a small town teacher, who is known as T’TA Professor. His life is seen through the eyes of a young aspiring writer, who visits the professor’s village in Kumaon.

The book was published by Penguin Books-India in 2008.

“I decided to translate the book three years ago because I had long admired Manohar Shyam Joshi’s writing and I am passionate about translating good Hindi writing into English,” Pande said.

Recounting the making of the book, she said: “Joshi ji had once asked me after reading the translation of my mother, noted Hindi writer Shivani’s works, to translate something from his work. I chose ‘T’Ta Professor’ because the text was fantastic and the book was nice and short.”

To Pande, “T’TA Professor” is one of the “most brilliant post-modern texts” in Hindi. “All those people who regard Indian writing as only writing in English should be aware that it is our ‘bhasha’ (language) writers who deserve to be read by the world outside,” she said.

The only bumps that Pande found along the way were the “Kumaoni words that Joshi dropped into his text.

“These were tough to translate. As for the characters, there was no problem.”

Pande has a natural affinity for translation. “I can sight-translate. That is I can read in Hindi and can translate to English straightaway. Then I go back and edit the translation,” she said.

The writer is now translating three books, “all of my late mother Shivani”.

Pande belongs to a family of writers. Her mother Shivani and sister Mrinal are well-known Hindi writers.

“I am fiercely attached to Kumaon, where Joshi’s novel is set. I have so far only translated writers from that region because that part of the world is my own and I want to bring it into the mainstream of writing in India,” she said.

Pande objects to the word vernacular. “It suggests as if these are inferior to the ‘main’ writing from India, whatever that may mean! To me, it is the regional languages that represent the finest writing coming out of India because of their strong sense of location and experience of life outside the metro cities and English speakers.”

But things are changing. “Publishers Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House are gradually waking up to the wealth of regional writing and its great potential”.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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