Dr. D. B. Gavani
Teaching of Translation and Deconstruction of Textual Praxis
The phenomenal growth and rapid development of translation studies is the recent trend setting in 21st century. Actually the terrain of translation has emerged during 1980s with regard to lay a greater emphasis on syntactic and semantic meanings enthralling semiotics of the language and its cultural entities. Today these translation studies are amassing the wide variety of fields like linguistics, literary studies, history, psychology, anthropology and economics. The translation is meant to transliterate the original cultural ideas into another cultural world. To put it in simple words translation is a process of putting forth our feelings, emotions and thoughts from mother tongue to other tongue or vis-à-vis. Sometimes mother tongue becomes other tongue and other tongue the mother tongue depending upon the given temporal and spatial situations in which the translator plays a very pivotal role in equilibrium of cultural devices. The mother tongue may be Kikuyu, Spanish, Russian, Italian, French, German or Englishes and the other tongue includes Kannada, Telagu, Tamil, Bengali or Hindi – or vice versa. The mother tongue always represents the expression of thoughts and ideas in the most homogeneous order and makes the speaker more confident of his/ her communication in everyday life. The other tongue constitutes the heterogeneous world where the cultural identities are exuded by apartheid, marginalized, downtrodden or subaltern or Dalit concerns and their inner circle where their boundaries are fixed by the hegemony of sociology. I am just foregrounding this ideology to disseminate the knowledge of the present PU First year English text and the forthcoming PU Second Year English text in the post colonial understanding of the literal and linguistic meanings.
I would like to focus on the lessons in the PU First Year English textbook. ‘The Gentleman of Jungle’, written by Jomo Kenyatta, the First President of Kenya whose imaginary world locates and resembles George Orwell’s Animal Farm, is an endorsement of the backwardness as far as class and caste system is concerned. The social hierarchy is well ridiculed with animal world where men have perchance no place except their subjugated prison hole. The finest translation of culture is found in K. P. Purna Chandra Tejashwi’s “Around the Medicinal Creeper” that co-opts the paradigm shift in the narratology of the subject matter in the novel “The Mistress of Spices” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The process of the translation KMS has tried to maintain the cultural values of Post Modern Kannada Literature as propagated by KPP Tejashwi. The nostalgia and pain circumvents in the story “ Oru Manushyan” written by V M Basheer where diasporic feelings are haunted by indentured labours, money lenders, watchmen, soldiers and so on. It is a question of survival by learning to write their addresses in English. “May... God help you” may not suffice the semiotic expression as a cliché at the end of the story. Translation as a discovery marvels the transformation in the lives of people like Babar Ali whose life portrayal by Samarpita M Sharma has been meticulously designed as a designated deed with dignity of service. Rowena Hill has translated a poem written by Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy viz., ‘Nanondu Maravadare’ into English entitled ‘If I was a Tree’ which has a lackadaisical attitude in elevating the cultural moorings that the poet expresses in Kannada from the spectrum of society he belongs to. Translation must be an innovative and intuitive phenomenon rather than pouring out of equivalent verbose in both the languages. That is why the translator should know the basic problems that s/he faces at the time of translating well known text from source language into target language. What am I translating? Why am I translating? Who am I translating? To whom am I translating? – these are the questions that translator should introspect and speculate the novel strategies, methods and techniques of translatability. R. K. Narayan is at his best in exhibiting the art of writing in Indian English with colloquial expressions upholding cultural ethos in his works. The Farmer’s Wife is written by P Lalita Kumari under the pen name of ‘Volga’ and translated by Vasanth Kannbiran into English. It is a pathetic note on the farmers’ suicide in India that excelled from the last decade in rampant way. It denotes the subaltern state of living in post colonial era where the marginalized or the last neglected person of this society has no voice to raise against the authority or elite masters or governmental entities. The life of Frederick Douglass throws light upon the Afro- American diaspora wherein the slavery is celebrated as a carnival of human suffering that demarcates the apathy of colour discrimination and class conflict in American society stating ‘the darkest hours of my career in slavery’. It is poverty that forges character is profusely precipitated in the poem “The Old Woman” by Arun Kolatkar. It portrays an agony of neglected or destitute woman who begs at the foothills of Jejuri. Shaheen Sultan Dhanji has translated an Urdu poem entitled “Do Not Ask of Me, My Love” written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the renowned Indian Urdu poet. It’s an immortalized ghazal that exemplifies the true love.
Translation has to do with authority and legitimacy and ultimately, with power, which is precisely why it has been and continues to be the subject of so many acrimonious debates. Translation is not just a “window opened on the another world” or some pious platitude. Rather, translation is a channel opened, often not without a certain reluctance, through which foreign influences penetrate into native culture, challenge it and even to contribute to subverting it. “When you offer a translation to a nation”, says Victor Hugo, “that nation will almost always look on the translation as a act of violence against itself”. Translations are potentially threatening precisely because they confront the receiving culture with another, the different way of looking at life and society, and the way that can be seen subversive and must therefore kept out. That is what instigates me to give a small advice to my highly intellectual teaching fraternity friends to pay attention at the time of teaching these lessons to the rural or sub-urban students with great dexterity and uncanny skills should be inculcated to decipher the knowledge of two different cultures and their relevance in an android oriented nano world. These lessons would definitely bring a drastic change in the process of shaping career and personality of students because the moral and ethical values of colonized counties are amalgamated and carried forward to Gen Next with jelly bean technical devices. Again we are looking back for our colonial masters to dictate terms to address the current situations. India, no more a land of sages and saints, black magicians, snake charmers and drum beaters as onlookers put her, is a New Paradise wherein our youths can mould their tenacity and sagacity to explore new horizons of upholding and comprehending the naked reality with their inquisitive inquiry into the text they go through even at PU Second Year English text too.
Translation of literature poses serious problems for the translator because creative writing uses words with multiple purposes. Here content and form are equally important. The ancient Indian theoretician Anandavardhana has stated that the distinctive feature of literary/poetic language is Oral: Poetic devices embellish literary language, which makes it a challenging task for the translator to carry it over to another language dhvani or the range of suggestions contained in the work. The translator has to bring this world of connotations alive in the TL also, which is not a mean task. S/he also has to reproduce the stylistic beauty of the SL text. The beauty of One Hundred Years of Solitude, for example, lies in the splendour of Marquez's magical realism; the translator has to be skilled in both Spanish and English to do justice to the SL text. Idioms and metaphors which abound in poetic use of the language are often difficult to recapture in the TL because of the structural differences between languages. In fact some feel that complete translatability is not a criterion of good craftsmanship as far as a literary work is concerned. Justin O'Brien who has translated Camus from French into English, quotes Raymond Guerin: “the most convincing criterion of the quality of a work is the fact that it can only be translated with difficulty, for if it passes readily into another language without losing its essence, then it must have no particular essence or at least not one of the rarest”. It is the awareness of all these challenges that is behind the concept of the impossibility of perfect equivalence.
The challenges multiply when the SL text is in verse, as the language of poetry is densely packed with allusions and other poetic ornaments like metre and figures of speech. The verse form is the most difficult to transfer to another language as the natural rhythm and syllabic patterns of languages differ from each other. How does one translate the majestic sweep of Shakespeare's blank verse into an Indian language? Nobody can deny that the metre and rhythm of the verse add to its grandeur. The sonnet with its stipulations of 14 lines and a specific rhyme scheme is hard to reproduce in a language that is completely different in speech rhythm and metre. In the case of a creative work there is a perfect marriage of form and content; the good translator has to render both adequately. This is perhaps why Robert Frost made the observation that poetry is what gets lost in translation.
The job of the translator is made easier if the TL reader does not know the SL. Translations of major works of literature can be taken as examples. As far as an Indian reader is concerned, it would be difficult to read Tolstoy or Cervantes or Victor Hugo in the original. But if it is to be well received, the translation cannot appear to be too ‘foreign' in style, either. In such cases the translator has to smooth over the linguistic and stylistic peculiarities and make the text accessible to the reader. Here the emphasis is on making the text reader-friendly and hence the translator can take a few liberties in translation.
What is apparent is that translation is essentially a reader-oriented or listener-oriented activity. The translator has to keep this in mind when translating and this will inform his/her choice of translation method. This also means that the translator has to correctly interpret the context in which the SL text is situated. This is especially true of culture-specific references. For example, translation of the English ‘Hi!' into Hindi is a case in point. This can be translated into ‘Namaste' and it cannot be treated as wrong translation. But the casualness of the English greeting is not recreated by the Hindi equivalent. If the greeting is from one friend to another, ‘Namaste' will not work as it is far too formal for the context. The translator has to understand the reality of the situation and work accordingly.
Susan Bassnett suggests various steps in this context. A translator when faced with a difficult term/phrase should accept that the SL phrase is untranslatable in the TL at the linguistic level. S/he will have to consider the range of TL terms that are available and decide on the equivalent word on the basis of the socio-cultural context or, if it is a conversation, on the basis of gender and age. When the SL is translated into the TL, what is more important is that the “invariant if it is a conversation core of the SL phrase in its two referential systems (the particular system of the text and the system of culture out of which the text has sprung)” has been reproduced. It has often been pointed out that Shakespeare's famous sonnet “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day” presents a thorny problem for translators. In the Indian context, summer is not a pleasant time and the comparison to summer will not be taken as a compliment. The translator will have to bear this in mind. If the reader is to understand the nature of the compliment, the translator will have to come up with a cultural equivalent.
Similarly if Tolstoy is considered to be a great writer by everybody and not just Russians, obviously the text has been communicated without distortions to the reading public in general. Nida underlines this point when he says “the ultimate purpose of the translation, in terms of its impact upon its intended audience, is a fundamental factor in any evaluation of translations”.
Rabindranath Tagore translated his Bengali poems into English for which he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.On this occasion the Swedish Academy gave the award for the English translations that Tagore had done himself and not for the originals in Bengali, to which they had no access. The Institution´s official statement made clear the reasons for giving the award:... For the author himself, who by education and practice is a poet in his native Indian tongue, has bestowed upon the poems a new dress, alike perfect in form...This has made them accessible to all in England, America, and the entire Western world...; because... with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West. Luigi Pirandello, the Sicilian novelist, playwright and author of ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’, amongst other titles, wrote many of his works in Sicilian dialect which he later translated into Italian. He was the Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1934. The Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett, voluntarily exiled in Paris, started by writing in English which he later translated into French, but ended up writing in French and translating himself back into English. He was the Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1969. The Polish writer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, who had emigrated to the United States in 1935 and translated many of his works from Yiddish to English at times with the help of another translator, was the Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1978. The Polish writer and poet of Lithuanian origin, Czeslaw Milosz, who lived in the United States for many years and translated his own work from Polish into English, received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. Joseph Brodsky, who in the USA translated many of his poems from Russian into English, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987.
By and large, I will be failing in my duties if I do not mention my deep sense of gratitude to the Chairperson, Co-ordinator and Members of PU English Textbook Committee for their sincere venture to fulfil the vision and mission of student centric quality education by imparting this material to make the teaching-learning process more effective and meaningful with specific goals and sufficing the need of an hour of all the stake holders. Lastly, my dream rests upon the Glocalectics that all my colleagues and students strive upon with benign zeal in glocalized cosmos.