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Saturday, July 29, 2006

LOST IN TRANSLATION 

During a recent cafeteria conversation, I was credited, erroneously, with having mastered

a language and winced at the flummoxed look on my colleague’s grizzled visage on hearing that I for all my gifts could not, did not and almost certainly would not, read the work that we had spent a warm cuppa discussing, in its original form. It struck me that we do owe a great deal to these unseen word-warriors who toil in the dark while other dark ones slumber on. In fact, I am sure that by saying that what I imagine I have read and appreciated/castigated is the merest approximation of the true material which for reasons of linguistic distances, shall remain light years away forever.

Edith Grossman for sheer numbers would therefore rank is the person that I am indebted to above all-her volume of work for authors mostly of Latin American extraction has been lauded as much for articulation of nuances as for her ability to contextualize copious amounts of literature that is itself equivocal and amorphous in its most stable form. Although she is recorded as having done admirable translations for Mayra Montero and Alvaro Mutis, I am familiar with her work mostly for Marquez and Llosa—Love in the Time of Cholera being her first essay.

Visibly bereft of any felicity in one language, let alone two, I will let her voice speak for herself’

“…….To recreate significance for a new set of readers, translators must make the effort to enter the mind of the first author through the gateway of the text – to see the world trough another person’s eyes and translate the linguistic perception of that world into another language. The better the original writing, the more exciting and challenging the process is. You can be sure that the attempt to enter the mind of García Márquez is as exciting and challenging as the work of a translator gets……”

.”….When one has reached what is delicately called a certain age, it begins to seem that maturity brings with it a ripened sensibility. But the experience of great art should not be denied anyone, no matter how young or how likely they are to miss certain crucial aspects of a work…”

“....I think most concepts are translatable, even if some specific words may not be…”

But for her, what appears to me as

''Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.''

Would appear as

En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor.

Exotic, lofty and totally incomprehensible !

So I doff my absent hat to her and others like Kathryn Spink who has worked with Lapierre, Maureen Freely-Pamuk, Linda Asher-Kundera and the Geeta Dharmarajan-led army of outstanding writers who do some of their best work so that, at least metaphorically, the blind ones can see.

Meanwhile I will offer my services to the likes of Shashi Tharoor and Jug Suraiya for whom I shall endeavour to translate …


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