Writers share challenges of translation at The White Owl Literature Festival and Book Fair
DIMAPUR — In a thought provoking session titled “Lost in translation” with Dr. Moushumi Kandali, prominent translators namely Srinath Perur, Vivek Shanbhag and L Somi Roy explored the challenges of translating a word into its true meaning on the second day of the first ever ‘Literature festival and book fair’ held at Zone Niathu in Chümoukedima on Saturday.
Speaking during the session, Roy pointed out that “one has to be a poet to translate poetry.” Roy, who is a cultural conservationist and author, a curator and translator, poignantly asserted that “translation of Indian languages is very important as it helps each language provide a window- a different way of thinking, a world view that is specific to that community.
“Every tribe in Nagaland has a world view that is specific to that particular tribe and by losing a language we close our window,” Roy said.
“Translation opens windows, it opens our minds and it is self-referential process for me when I translate because I am always thinking what this language that I am translating from is. It also makes me aware of what is this English that I am translating into. It’s an ongoing questioning although there is no solid final answer to it,” he added.
He asserted that Manipuri, Mizo, Kuki-Chin and Naga languages belong to Tibeto-Burman languages which is highly variegated in about 400 languages of which only about 10 has written scripts one of which is Manipuri. According to him, translation is an interesting cultural investigation while pointing out that ‘translation is working with someone else work, so we have to be very careful.’
Shanbhag, a Kannada author, editor and playwright, underlined that “when one translates, they need to understand what is beneath the text as what looks profound in one language looks silly in another language”.
“A word when it has to pass the gate of translation, the original may have more than one meaning. But when you translate, you are forced to pick one. So at that time, lots of answer is lost. Translation is a challenging thing as the process of translation is very complex while it is important to know who your readers are when you translate,” said Shanbhag.
Vivek said, “Translation has helped me to understand my craft to some extent because when you write in a language you take many things for granted. And being aware of that is an important thing for a writer because one is very subtle and one operates at a different level. When a work gets translated that makes me aware of certain aspect of craft,” he added.
Perur, a translator from Kannada to English who also writes about Science and travel, recounted that growing up he was torn between languages.
“When in school I was told to speak in English more at home to grasp the language. So I always thought that other’s languages were cool,” he recounted.
Translation, he said, poses a great challenge for him because there are clashing ways of thinking in different languages. Perur remarked that he does not consider himself lost in translation or gain but consider it as a shift.