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M. S. Thirumalai
PRACTICING LITERARY TRANSLATION
A SYMPOSIUM BY MAIL - FOURTH ROUND
Moderator: : V. V. B. Rama Rao, Ph.D.
A WORD FROM THE MODERATOR, Dr. RAMA RAO
The symposium has been getting good encouragement and gaining popularity. Here is a long letter of interaction from a Professor of Applied Linguistics, Dr. Suresh Kumar, whose views have been carried, in the very first round:
I have gone through the third round of the symposium with interest and a sense of learning more on the subject. It is very true that ekam sat vipraah bahudhaa vadanti.
That is, the object may be one but the perceptions may be varied, and it only testifies to the creative human prowess. The moderator's opening remarks that not all the works lend themselves to 'successful' translation is noteworthy. The theoretical insight is that translating is basically a decision-making process that starts from step 1 -- what to choose to translate -- dictated by the level of 'translatability' as judged by the intending translator.
Now brief comments on some of the opinions.
1. S. Mohanty : "....translation is a difficult task ". I would say, it is a special task, as special as any other worth the name ( e.g. writing first hand or making tea ) and requires special skills and insights.
2. T. S. Chandramouli et al: Remarks on how to address the issue of translating the title in some cases are important as they have bearing on theory. Therefore to say that one should not necessarily go for translating every title in a word-for-word manner is agreeable. One may go for selectively translating some titles in a sense-for-sense manner as guided by the meaning-complex which a particular text may represent.
3. Ambika Ananth : The entire discourse is sound, theoretically justified and practically adequate.
4. R.V. S Sundaram: The comment, "... translation is also a creative experience" is relevant and consistent with the nature of 'writing' whatever be the' type' of the text written.
5. Summing up: The moderator has posed a relevant question, which is about the 'display' of the text (read poem). My answer is, ask yourself the question: Why did the poet go for a certain type of display of his poem? The possible answer would be that it helped him to express himself 'more' meaningfully. It was a decision he made when he 'wrote'. Shouldn't the decision be implemented when it would come to translating the poem?
BLESSINGS FROM A JAMBHAVAN
Here is another thing, which gave me additional strength. Having received my brief note of request, a near centenarian came up with his blessings to me along with his experience. We in India revere our elders and the erudite scholar, academic and practicing translator's views are of great importance and value to all of us in the practice.
I start off this round with an excerpt from Mr. Chellapilla Sita Ramamurty's letter:
Let me confess at the outset that my efforts in these directions (literary translations from English into Telugu and vice versa) are not verbal translations: somehow, I felt that I lacked competence to undertake such a task. While remaining faithful to the ideas expressed in the original, my rendering of them into the other language is marked by the needs of appropriate expression suitable to it. So I called them my 'versions' in English if the originals are in Telugu and my 'versions' in Telugu if the originals are in English. I tried to respect, as far as possible, the genius of the language. I was glad to know that the authors and readers were satisfied with my renderings.
Ch. Sita Ramamurty (b.1908) is a great teacher of English, academic and a retired Principal, who put in nearly a half a century of service first in the Government and later in private service. Rendering religious discourses and texts has been his forte. He translated the deeply religious texts of the renowned Sribhashyam Appalacharya Swami, another academic and his colleague.
B. S. Murthy
But for the art of translation, the state of literature would have been poorer. Thus, the raison d'Ítre of translation is imparting to literature the universal feel? But then what constitutes the art that achieves the goal? While the idea forms the soul of a work, its narrative style shapes its structure and captures the mood. In any exercise of translation, the feel of the translator could capture the soul of the original. However, it is the style that is unique to the language, which poses problems for replication in translation. In this lies the challenge as well as the opportunity for the translator - to recreate the mood of the original in another tongue with a matching style that the latter would afford. In that lies the hallmark of a translated work when to the reader it does not seem as a work of translation.
Apart from the translator's genius, how this is achieved depends on the way the original impacts him or her. After penning three novels and one novel non-fiction, I got into the act of translation, first with Bhagavad-Gita: treatise of self-help and then with Sundara Kanda: Hanuman's Odyssey. It is the philosophy of the former and the imagery of the latter that inspired me to try to picture them both in sloka to sloka verse. The opportunity was there to carry their souls, nursed in an ancient Indian setting, onto the modern stage in a foreign tongue. And the challenge was to capture the rhythm of their Sanskrit rendition by the style of the English idiom. More so on both these counts, the fascinating exercise did prove to be a rewarding experience.
B. S. Murthy, (b. 1948), a graduate engineer, is a loss assessor in Hyderabad. Having published three novels - Benign Flame: saga of love, Crossing the Mirage and Jewel-less Crown: saga of life, and a novel non-fiction, Puppets of Faith: theory of communal strife, Murthy translated the two Sanskrit classics. He had self-published them and they are being distributed by Jaico Book House.
R. V. Rama Rao
It is said that the 19th century was the century of the novelist, the 20th century of the journalist. It can be assumed that the present century is that if the translator. All developing languages throughout the world are engaged in translations both literary and informative works. The compulsions of development have left no alternative but to translate from other languages and enrich ones own language.
Practice and theory of translation are as old as the authorship itself, a business which is in vogue for the last 5000 years. We find a double inscription on the banks of the river Nile, which dates back to 3000 BC. It contains message in two languages, Greek and Egyptian.
In translation matter and manner, both are important. For translation of informative texts matter is more important than manner. For creative and literary translations, manner is primary. Any way the manner would be closer to TL than SL because it should be read in TL.
R. V. Rama Rao (b.1953) a journalist by profession, was Resident Editor of Andhra bhoomi for over one and a half decades. He was the editor of Rediff, Telugu. He is a literary critic too. He translated Gail Omvedt's biography of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar into Telugu which is published by Alaknanda. He rendered into English four books dealing with natural way of living by Dr. Manthena Sathyanarayana Raju.
Jayashree Mohan Raj
Translation is not creative writing per se. It is much more than creative writing. A lot of critical interpretation goes along with the creativity of the translator. The creative writer is answerable only to the reader, whereas the translator is answerable to the original writer as well as the reader. Sometimes it is like balancing on a double- edged knife. In the process the translator becomes much more than the writer in the sense that he/she has to interpret the text critically to understand the writer's intentions, sometimes research the background and be creative in the use of the target language. Therefore the translator is a reader, a critic, a researcher and a creative writer all rolled into one who develops an empathy with the text as well as the author (but of course that doesn't make him/her greater than the original writer).
We can say that the translator is a surrogate mother. The surrogate mother knows that the child is someone else's. She nurtures it in her womb, gives it all the care for a healthy growth inside her, feels the child taking shape within her, feels the pains and pangs during the gestation of the child exactly as a natural mother feels. But all the time she is conscious of the fact that she is nourishing a child, which is not hers. She has only lent her womb. At the same time she can't help loving the child as her own, and desiring the birth of the child without any deformity. That is the agony and the ecstasy of the translator.
I was like any other young English literature graduate dabbling in poetry, when eminent creative writers like late Sri Sachi Rout Roy and C. Tulasi nudged me into the field of translation. I translated their works out of respect and love for them. What began as a casual, occasional work became a passion later. It was when I read Kethu Viswanatha Reddy's excellent short story 'Sati' (which I myself couldn't write) that I really wanted to translate. I underwent the pangs of creativity. A surrogate mother is also a mother ...
Jayashree Mohanraj teaches at the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad. At present she is on a two-year Overseas Assignment and is teaching at Taiz University, Yemen.
Davaraju Maharaju, Ph.D.
Human values are the inspiration for literary translation. Translation is service to society and literary translation is an endeavour to bring cultures together. Works of art should be seen, read and experienced, appropriated to for one's own in imaginative living. A translated poem is not inferior to the original. In a way it is a parallel creation, demanding creativity. The literary translator is a link, verily a bridge between two cultures. A good translator does not merely find the right word: he lives it. His is an onerous job: he has to go through different stages: first rough and ready rendering, editing, epitomizing, expanding, revising, editing again and finally weighing the worth of his own product. The resonance of the original should reverberate in his rendering.
My participation in the poets' meet at Bharat Bhavan in 1991 brought me into fruitful contact with poets from the entire country, which culminated in my book in Telugu KAVITA BHARATHI. I tried my best to be faithful. I did my best to internalize the original poet's style, his turn of phrase the way he chiselled to convey the poet's mood.
Poetry of Narayana Sarvay, Vaman Nimbalkar gave me chance for experimentation. As they wrote in the language of the common folk, I tried to put t in the language of my Telangana people. I tried to approximate to their language, when I rendered Sivaram Deep'd Dogri gazals and the Gujarati Haikus of 'Snehasparsha'. Kusumagraj's song of war march penned in Dum Dum jail inspired me to render it in Telugu with a near equal, zeal and verve.
I learnt that listening to the original read out would help the translator get th authentic feel which sharpens his sensibility to render it effectively in the target language.
Dr. Maharaju (b.1951) is Professor of Zoology in Bhavan' New Science Cllege, (Osmania University). Hyderabad. He is a creative writer and translator with lots of published work.
Shanta Sundari Rao
Every translator knows that literary translation should never be a literal translation.There have to be manipulations, additions and omissions, in order to make it more palatable to the maximum number of readers.
During the past thirty plus years' experience in this field, I had translated a number of books- poetry,novels,one act palys,stories and articles,from Hindi to Telugu and Telugu to Hindi for organizations like Central Sahitya Academi,National Book Trust and ICCR.
There had been instances when I struggled with a line here and a passage there,which is natural I suppose,as it is difficult sometimes to find similar expressions in two different languages and one can't translate without doing injustice to one of them.
My area of work is mainly Hindi and Telugu languages. Both are Indian languages with lots of Sanskrit words in them. But there are so many Sanskrit words which don't have the same meaning.For example, pramaad means exception in Hindi, whereas it means danger in Telugu. "Nireekshan," "aamod," or "shiksha" don't mean the same in both the languages.So, a translator has to be extra careful while translating such words.
I want to give an interesting example,which came my way,some 40 years ago-in one of Chandamama magazine's stories,there was a phrase'tala maasina vaadu'.Now, the literal meaning of this phrase is,a man with dirty unkempt hair.The figurative meaning is,a useless fellow.In this particular story the phrase was used in both the meanings.Stories in Chandamama were originally written in Telugu and then translated into other languages.The translator would have found it very difficult to do the same.Because,'talamaasina vaadu' is a common usage in Telugu.I dont know how the problem of translating this was solved finally!
Finally, I want to say that a translator's job can be a pain as well as pleasure. He takes pains and feels the pleasure when the final product is to the satisfaction of everyone concerned.
R. Santha Sundari (b.1947) is a renowned creative writer and a translator. She is the worthy daughter of Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao, a giant among Telugu writers. She has carved a niche for herself both by her creative work and translations. Recently she received an award also from Bharatiya Anuvada Parishad, New Delhi.
Dr. Srinivasa Rangaswami: Some Thoughts on Translation
"There should be a lingering unhappiness in reading translation," said Robert Frost, and spoke of poetry as "that which is lost in translation." That is one position, an extreme position (though, with much truth) at one end. On the other hand, there have been acclaimed translations like Fitgerald's Omar Khayyam. Realistically viewed, translation like life is a situation of compromise, which nevertheless has to be accepted, if you are not to deny ourselves the best of what as been thought and expressed in different languages of the world.
Translation is an attempt to transplant a piece of writing from one soil to another. In the process, the translator is engaged in negotiating with the original text in two layers - 1. with what has been said in the original text, and 2. with how it has been said. In other words, with 1.the message the original text seeks to convey: and 2. The experience the author wants to convey.
That being so, for that very reason, broadly speaking, translation as a piece of prose is relatively a less complicated affair, because you are here concerned with the meaning of the text, the idea.
On the other hand, rendering of a piece of poetry in another language is more challenging - for the reason that, here, not only what is said is important, but also how it is said. For, a poem is a totality, representing an experience, which the translator has to convey in another language. Here lies the rub.
The reason will be obvious when we consider this: A word in any language has a personality of its own. Every 'meaningful' word is a unique totality - unique in sound, denotation, connotation, and much more. The difficulty arises when we try to use the words in the language of translation as a tool in the transference of an experience conveyed in the language of the original with its distinct associations and nuances of emotional meanings. The translated poem, however brilliant, is a different poem in another language.
At the working level, there is further the problem of syntactic differences between the language of the original and the language of translation. A word-to-word translation is, therefore, not possible. In the nature of things, it has to be a 'free' translation or transcreation across the board. Which means, while it cannot run away from the original, at the same time, it cannot be shackled to the original text making the translated piece unnatural and awkward.
The difficulty is further compounded when the original happens to belong to a milieu removed from yours by distance in time, when it belongs to another world, with its own ethos, mores of thought, its own customs and conventions -- as for example, Tamil classical Sangam poetry. Here the translator has to ensure that the original text in translation is comprehensible to the modern, holding his interest. For, this piece chosen for translation has to have an element of human interest to present-day readership. To this end, every effort should be made, every means availed of, to make the context of the original text accessible. This may take the form of supplementary prose legend to place in context for translated piece, and footnotes to explain unfamiliar terms and allusions. The end-product should be a seamless piece existing in its own right.
Dr. Srinivasa Rangaswami (b. 1924) is renowned poet, Chairman of Chennai Posts' Circle. A retired long ago from the department of Information and Broadcasting. He is associated with Poets International too.
SUMMING UP - Moderator Dr. V. V. B. Rama Rao
Translation veteran Umesh Joshi has pointed out that the translator feels the pleasure a mother gets on seeing the face of her child after undergoing the throes of childbirth.
Jayashree says that even the surrogate mother is a mother. All creativity emerges only after birth pangs.
My friend Devaraju Maharaju gave a very useful tip. Poetry is basically harnessing the possibilties, call it an exploitation, if you will, of the sound system in a language.
Permit me to write my own experience to beat out the truth of my friend's observation. My small time class fellow Ayyapa Paniker asked me to render two of his long poems in Malayalam (Kuruksteram and Gotrayanam) into Telugu. I asked him for tapes and listened to the poems read/sung in his own voice. Like Telugu, Malayalam too draws a large percentage of its vocabulary, especially while dealing with matters spiritual and serious, from Sanskrit, and then the beauty of poem to a large extent lies in its euphony. The poet is the best to render it to his own utmost satisfaction.
For the literary translator, the rendering becomes first, easy, and secondly more effective. When Paniker said that my renderings came up to his expectation, I was really delighted. He lost no time in getting them published.
Srimati Shanta Sundari seems to have forgotten the way she solved the problem (talamaasinavaadu) years ago. But one way (there may be any number of them) could be an expletive (not very seriously always) or using the epithet 'seedy' or a phrase like 'down-at heel,' all idiomatic. Then, roughly the phrase means a good for nothing fellow. I'm sure Mrs. Rao will have done justice to the context.
Dr. Srivasa Rangaswami has discussed succinctly the nature of literary translation and it can be construed as a carefully worded caveat to new comers into the field.
Frost's oft-quoted statement (like the one of a Frenchman likening translation to a mistress) is best taken casually since we really don't know the context in which the great poet said that. Surely he could not have meant to denigrate the difficult art of translation.
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TSUNAMI AFTER-SHOCKS- SOME JAPANESE WORDS IN ENGLISH | A SOCIO-LINGUISTC STUDY OF CODE SWITCHING AMONG THE COCHIN TAMILS | PRACTICING LITERARY TRANSLATION - A SYMPOSIUM BY MAIL -- FOURTH ROUND | TEXT FAMILIARITY, READING TASKS, AND ESP TEST PERFORMANCE: A STUDY ON IRANIAN LEP AND NON-LEP UNIVERSITY STUDENTS - A DOCTORAL DISSERTATION | ADVANCED WRITING - A COURSE TEXTBOOK | A SIMPLE SCRIPT FOR BANGLA AND THE IPA MAPPING THEREOF | EVOLUTION OF LANGUAGE POLICY - BRITISH CABINET MISSION TO CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY - CHANGING POLICIES OF THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS AND THE ALL INDIA MUSLIM LEAGUE | NAYANAGARI - A SIMPLE CONJUNCT-FREE SCRIPT FOR DEVANAGARI | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
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