Finding the words

It is generally believed that the translation of poetry is more difficult than the translation of prose. This may be true to a certain extent, but translating prose is not easy. In modern times, especially when writers experiment with diction and in paraphrasing and weaving sentences with certain intent, it is not only the narrative or descriptive part that matters, but also the way in which a particular story or episode has been presented. Thus, while translating a novel, a story, an essay or a travelogue, one has to be careful to transmit the flavour of the original language.

When I was translating the essays of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay for the National Book Trust from Bengali to Hindi, I was in a quandary as to how to bring the flavour of Sanskritised prose into Hindi as it is spoken and written today. Somewhere, a balance had to be maintained, otherwise the translation would remind of a bygone era in itself. I wanted to keep the flavour of original, with all its wit, humour and grandeur, while making it reader-friendly. In any case, any translated work must "belong" to the language into which it has been translated, while remaining true to its source. This is no easy task.

A translator can rejoice in his work without taking into account the polemics, the differences, the opinions circulated in the literary circles of a particular language about different writers, as he is concerned with the "work", and not other factors. He may know about all these and still be able to carry forward his work. Translating the works of different writers from a particular language can be a learning experience in itself. Sunil ji was of the opinion that a translation would carry the intent of the original work only if the translator was translating from the source language, as the words belong to a cultural and social context as well.

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