We have been involved with translations from the various Indian languages--teaching, editing, and conducting workshops-for quite a few years. We have noticed that though students and teachers at college level have responded with enthusiasm to our literatures, they have little access to resource material. Many teachers wished to include these literatures as part of the syllabus. There was a deeply felt need for a book that introduced students to our rich literary heritage.
In recent years, especially in the context of globalization, English has emerged as the most important link language in India. Indian literatures will therefore acquire a far wider readership even within the country if they are made available in English translation. Publishers and academics have begun to respond in different ways to this swiftly changing scenario.
This book has emerged after much discussion and deliberation. The texts have been chosen with care, keeping in mind some key issues. The interests of fresh undergraduates, who have not been exposed to such literatures, were a primary consideration. We tried out our selections on students to find that they were well received.
There is no one Indian experience. The urban is as much part of the Indian experience as the rural, humour is as much part of our lives as pathos, the life of the dalit is as authentic as that of the affluent, a woman's concerns as much part of humanity as a man's. We wanted our selection to encompass the whole range.
We designed the questions and activities at the end of each story with care. First of all, we wanted students to enjoy and appreciate the stories, to read and reread them several times to get the essence. We wanted them to notice what the authors were saying as well as how they were saying it. So our first set of questions--`Reading the Story'-reflects on the worldviews the texts offer and encourages students to look at nuances and connotations, to take note of vocabulary, style, imagery, theme, etc.
Subashree Krishnaswamy edited the Indian Review of Books for a number of years. She was also the editor of Manas, an imprint of East West Books, Chennai. Manas published translations from the various Indian literatures and many were critically acclaimed. Her book, The Babel Guide to South Indian Fiction in Translation, a book introducing Indian literatures to a western readership, is in the press. She is working on an anthology of young adult fiction in translation and is a Charles Wallace scholar. In 2005 she won the BBC Short Story Award for her work 'Bright Pink Butterfly Clips'.
K. Srilata teaches Literature in Translation and Creative Writing at IIT Madras. She has a Doctorate in women's writing and the Tamil print media from Central University, Hyderabad. She is the author of The Other Half of the Coconut: Women Writing Self-Respect History published by Kali for Women, New Delhi. She is also a poet. She won the first prize in the All India Poetry competition organized by the British Council and the Poetry Society, India, in 1997 and the Unisun-British Council poetry award in 2007. Her anthology of poems Seablue Child was published by Brown Critique, Kolkata. Srilata is a Charles Wallace scholar and a Fulbright pre-doctoral scholar.
Subashree and Srilata are also collaborating with Lakshmi Holmstrom on an anthology of Tamil poetry in translation.
This collection of stories is an attempt to introduce students to a great but unorganized body of work referred to as ILET - Indian Literature in English Translation. No reader of this book needs reminding that we live in a world of continuous communication in different languages-from manuals that accompany gadgets, to films from different countries, medicines, and bestsellers-made possible only by the act of translation. If anyone were to be hostile to the idea of translation s/he would be ignoring the deep human need to sham thoughts and feelings. Translation is the natural extension of anything verbal and valuable that man wishes to communicate and it crosses three bridges-personal, linguistic, and cultural.
The word and the world
Language is like a city. To build this city, every human brings a stone. The beauty and durability of vak, logos, the word is what sets us apart from the rest of all creation. Language gives form to the store of human experience. It makes possible the stupendously vast memory bank of humankind-libraries of books going back hundreds of years; uncounted caches of documents and scripts; journals, diaries, letters, and reports, personal and official, that lie stored in both public and private collections. When words make up a book, a poem, a short story, a long story, a play, or a novel, they invite you to enter a city filled with secrets that then become your secrets and enrich your understanding of life.
What is translation?
What exactly is translation? At a very simple level, when X who knows both English and Hindi meets Y who knows only English, and wants to tell Y Billi mat par chadhkar baithi', X can very easily say, 'The cat sat on the mat', and not miss out on anything essential. If you were translating a legal document, the chief concern would be about conveying information correctly. One cannot, and one dare not, in translation, say that 'one side of the hill belongs to Mr XX' when the original document says that 'the west side of the hill, facing the river, belongs to Mr XX'. It is a matter of factual accuracy and the style and polish of language are irrelevant. But when a literary text is being translated from Oriya, Bengali, or Malayalam into English, all the complex layers of meaning concerning caste, rituals, and family tics become extremely difficult to convey in a language which originated in a country that has no cultural equivalents for the very concepts one sees in the Indian works. This is the difficulty that translators of Indian literary works face. There is no such thing called the caste system in an Anglocentric world, no such thing as a yagna, or being the head of a matrilineal household. So how do we go about translating, explaining, rewriting, recreating these local worlds in another word-world? How shall we reorder them, reread them from the perspective of global English and against a background of twenty-first century, Western book culture? That is when we arrive at a conclusion with which it is difficult to argue. Namely, that translating a literary text is like translating a culture, not just the words that appear in the language that has come out of that background. Sanskrit poetics offers us two terms to describe what translation is: roopantar and anuvaad. Roopantar means a change of form. Anuvaad means 'saying after' or 'explaining what comes after'. Taking things a bit further, Navalram, the Gujarati writer-reformist identified three types of translation: shabdanusar (word for word), arthanusar (sense to sense), and rasanusar (spirit to spirit).
Our country an ethnic museum
While India is a single entity politically, culturally it is subcontinental in nature. Our country is so complex and so diverse that it is impossible for a single person to assimilate and make generalizations. India has a vast and elaborate past and has lived with pluralisms for centuries. The history of India is based on linkages with not one civilization but three-Hindu, Islamic, and Christian-all traditional societies in which religion is the centre of daily community life.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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