I had attended a session on translated works at Sudarshan Rangmanch. This is the report.
Every language has its own nuances shaped by the community speaking it. There are those little jokes, imagery and references to socio-political and economic context used with a flourish by those speaking it.
The moot question before a translator is if these cultural references resonate within a speaker of a different tongue. Kalasakta Pune and Kelyane Bhashantar had recently organised a festival of translated literature which saw the reading session of 'Rabindranathanchya Sahwasat'. It was translated from the Bengali original - Mangputeche Rabindranath – by Vilas Gitay. Excerpts from Milind Champanerkar's, 'Lokshahivadi Ammi's, ek dirgha patra', translated from Saeed Mirza's, 'Ammi: Letter to a Democratic Mother', was also read out at the three day festival.
While chaste Marathi can sound a little harsh on ears, Gitay succeeded in retaining the original Bengali sweetness in the chat, banter and the poetic exchange between Tagore and Maitreyee Devi (author).
Gitay, who translated the book in 1988, says, “When I translate from Hindi or Bengali into Marathi, I use the syntax of Marathi. The reader should feel that the original author has written the book, not in Hindi or Bengali, but in Marathi.”
In fact when Gitay read a paper on 'Tagore in Marathi Translation' and also recited his Marathi translation of Tagore's poems at the Tagore Festival in 2010 organised by The Asiatic Society of Mumbai he received positive feedback from non- Marathi speakers.
William Radice, a Professor of Bengali in England and the translator of Geetanjali and Martin Kaempchen, a German scholar who speaks Bengali and lives at Shantiniketan, told Gitay, ' You successfully brought the rhythm of Tagore's poems in Marathi.'
Besides written and oral command over the two languages, as aforementioned, it is equally important to get the socio-political context right.
Milind Champanerkar, who was enthralled after reading Mirza's book, says,
“Translating this book was a big challenge as it required understanding of international politics, of several ideologies, subjects like economics, philosophy, orient culture, history, trends in literature… to theatre, film-making, scripting to Beatles music. But these had been subjects of my interest too and so I decided to approach Mirza to seek his permission for translating the book.”
But, before getting in touch with Mirza, Champanerkar debated with himself if he had understood Mirza's intention and reason behind penning that letter.
“Mirza has interwoven other forms of literature like a novel, a fairy tale, an autobiography, a social essay, musings on culture and politics, a travelogue, character sketches, film script and created a literary work, which defies conventional classification. It's a collage of incidents from his and his parents’ lives, historical events, Indian politics, stories of Mulla Nasruddin, poetry of Mirza Ghalib, works of Sufi saints, and poet saints like Namdev and many more. So it was important to co-relate the narrative formats. Once I was sure I could do that, I wrote to Mirza,” says Champanerkar.
Mirza had liberally used Urdu and Pashto in his work, so Champanerkar had to work on
translating and then confirming from experts if the usage was correct.
“The task before me,” says Champanerkar, “was to maintain the tone - one of respect, what they call tehzeeb, in Marathi. I also experimented with Pashto and Urdu words .. to give semblance..particularly in conversations of rickshaw pullers and goons.. to retain the original flavour of the language.”
The importance of translated works is that it widens the reach of the author's thoughts and possibly helps the readers to identify the commonalities between their world and that of the others. If the translator succeeds in achieving this, then the purpose is served.