Crossing Borders With Translations | Herald of the Deccan


Although we live in an “ever-translated world” translators are sometimes treated like second-rate citizens in the republic of literary creativity.

They are like bridge builders, connecting us to areas that would remain inaccessible without their hard work erased.

And the translations themselves remain invisible and anonymous, as if lacking in originality.

We are hardly aware that our daily life is surrounded by translations, from sales brochures to Leo Tolstoy, from a health manual to the Indian Constitution – we trade with polyglot material through translations. Especially in the contemporary era of globalized knowledge, we owe our existence to translations which, like the god Hermes in Greek mythology, constantly cross the boundaries of languages ​​and cultures that are linked to languages.

The Sahitya Akademi deserves full praise for instituting awards for translations from other languages ​​into any of the 23 official Indian languages.

A prize is also awarded to the best translation of a bhasha work in English. Nataraju Budalu’s translation of the work of the great Buddhist scholar Sarahapada and Srinath Perur’s translation of Vivek Shanbhag Ghachar Ghochar in English are among the awards for 2020.

Equally reassuring for Kannada is that among the 24 awards, four are for the translation of original Kannada works, testifying to the importance of Kannada writing in Indian literature.

Interlinguistic negotiations

Premodern India was a land of breathtaking polyglot cultures. Besides Sanskrit and Pakrit, a competent writer would know at least two other languages ​​and consider himself free to translate, transcreate and rewrite from a vast repertoire of poetry, tales, myths and genres from many languages ​​and cultures.

Like all literary traditions, Kannada literature is the product of such interlinguistic negotiations through translations.

Kavirajamargam (850 CE), the earliest extant work on poetics (in any language in the world, according to Sheldon Pollock) is primarily a translation of the Sanskrit works of Bhamah and Dandin.

But that does not prevent it from being a very original work that authoritatively maps the Kannada culture, its territory and the cultural profile of its inhabitants.

It establishes a framework for the negotiation of Kannada literature with Sanskrit on its own terms.

Pampa, the archetype of the poet, consciously repeated the Mahabharata of Vyasa, but also allegorized the country’s regional history in his epic narrative. Vikramarjuna Vijaya (932 CE).

Almost all of the great Kannada works of the ancient and medieval period are translations and transcreations. If we keep aside our modern notions of copyright, authorship and originality, we begin to see how a vibrant literary culture has relied on various linguistic resources to cope with the complex world of dominant religions, hierarchies caste and gender and a politics of empires and vernacular languages. policies.

Certainly, “Kannadesse” has always been a cosmopolitan phenomenon built with the endless process of translation. In other words, Kannada literature has always been Indian in its cultural and intellectual plurality.

Literary Renaissance

A quantum leap to the Indian renaissance in the 19th century brings us closer to Navodaya, the Kannada literary renaissance that was also energized by translations.

From the last decades of the 19th century to the first decades of the 20th century, translations of fiction into Bengali, Marathi, Telugu and English introduced not only a powerful literary form, but also themes of modernity: nationalism, renegotiation with tradition, questions of gender and social reform.

Soon we have writers like B Venkatacharya learning Bengali to translate nearly seventy Bengali works into Kannada, including most of Bankimchandra and Sharathchandra.

Galaganatha freely translates the Marathi novelist HN Apte to popularize historical romance.

In 1920, BM Shrikanthaiah translated collectible English poetry into English Geethegalu (1921), heralding modern Kannada poetry. He said Kannada now needs to reinvigorate himself, feeding off English and not Sanskrit.

It is remarkable that the renaissance of Kannada which produced Bendre, Kuvempu, Karanth, Masti and many others was initiated by a wonderful work of translations.

Hybrid traditions, new forms

Translation is always a transgressive act, mixing literary and cultural traditions and destabilizing accepted norms. How else could a Christian hymn by JH Newman be reborn Karunaalu ba belake in Kannada, to do as a prayer in every school and college in the state?

The marine phase of literary modernism began in the late 1950s and early 1960s with another negotiation – this time with high modernity European and Anglo-American writings.

Interestingly, translations of modernist works took place after writers like BC Ramachandra Sharma and Gopalakrishna Adiga radically transformed Kannada poetry by responding to literary modernity.

Girish Karnad acknowledged his debt to Jean Anouilh and Albert Camus while his predecessor Sriranga had made an original response to Ibsen and Bernard Shaw.

The translations of Mohan Rakesh, Badal Sarkar, Utpal Dutt have played a decisive role in the reorientation of drama and Kannada theater.

Unfortunately, for a long time, bad theories of translation led to the proliferation of colonial distortions of “influence”, “imitation”, “fidelity” and “authenticity”.

Fortunately, we now agree that translation is not done across languages ​​but across cultures; that the original uncontaminated tradition is a myth created by uncertain minds; that the world we live in is “incorrigibly plural”.

It is not only in the field of literature that translations bring about paradigm shifts. Modern Kannada prose had to be reshaped in colonial times to become a vehicle of contemporary knowledge.

The past decade has seen a flood of Kannada translations of the writings of most of the leading social scientists and thinkers.

DD Kosambi, Ramachandra Guha, Uma Chakravarti, Chimamanda Adichie, Umberto Eco, Noam Chomsky, are now available to the Kannada reader. Such translations have contributed to the democratization of knowledge because language politics and social injustice have created a large monolingual community that needs to acquire global knowledge through Kannada.

What we need now is to digitize the Kannada world to which translation can make an important contribution.

(The writer is a literary and cultural critic based in Shivamogga)

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