The second session on the first day of the fourth Kolkata Literature Festival revolved around the issue of the waning of translation works in India and elsewhere. Moderated by Dr. Abhijit Gupta, popularly known as “Tintin Da” among his students in Jadavpur University, the session saw him narrate how his own small press runs primarily on translations.
Pertinent questions about the future of translation in the country were discussed. Some modes of reviving this among the youth were also considered.
Eminent translator Vivek Shanbhag, whose works have been published in Granta, Seminar Indian Literature and Out of Print, elucidated, “Today I cannot even find one person who is interested in a language apart from their own.South India, however, is an exception where one person is often adept at four languages and keeps translating across these languages. I feel that with the advent of English in recent times, the frequency of translation works in vernacular languages has increased.”
Arunava Sinha narrated, “My son is terrified of Hindi examinations. It is important to reduce the intimidation posed by exams. Children should be urged to learn languages for the fun of it.”
He emphasized how Indians are naturally learn more than two languages since childhood. This practice, he added, needs to be preserved through education in languages apart from English.
Jenny Brown, recalled how she once heard a journalist comment that translated works are regarded as what a child regards vegetables. “However,” she said, “Some translators are becoming well-known in their own merit. I remember the English translation (from Japanese) of Murakami’s book being sold out even at midnight in the United Kingdom.”
Author and Kannad Srinath Perur remarked, “The rules of translation vary from one language to another. For instance, English editors consider the repetition of a word problematic. This is not the case with regional languages.”
Sayantan Dasgupta pointed out that the asymmetry of translations is presently one of the major hindrances in the area. He said, “There is a dearth of translators in regional languages these days. Hence, we organized workshops to teach the skill to young translators and university students for Lepcha and Nepali.”
The session ended on a note of the hope for integration of more people into translation and the germination of the seeds of the desire among posterity to translate.
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