Literature as Translation, Translation as Literature

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Still, the cultural content associated with and depicted in these languages displays a high degree of mutual intelligibility. We can say that the cultural distance in such cases is considerably smaller than the linguistic distance. It is, therefore, more worthwhile to translate literary works directly from the target the language in which the work is originally created to the vehicle language the one in which the work is being translated.

However, translators having a reasonable familiarity with both languages is rare.

What makes the issue more complex is the fact that a large proportion of people classified as speakers of a certain language speak not the standardised form, but one of several subregional dialects of that language, and literary works of that language tend to employ these linguistic nuances for a realistic portrayal of the sociocultural milieu. A large number of literary translations carried out in colonial and postcolonial South Asia are either from English into the regional languages or vice versa. The translators of writings from Europe, Latin America, Africa, East Asia, West Asia use, more often than not, English as a bridge language between the original tongues and the one translated into.

Collaboration occurs when either the translation relies on the text of the original language and uses the English or any other language as the glossary; or two people—one of whom knows the language of the original really well and the other can handle the target language with facility—join hands to create the translation.

The two individuals can communicate in English or another common tongue. In the case of South Asian languages, a collaboration between two individuals, each deft in either of the two languages involved, can result in more worthwhile and nuanced translations. It is even better if the collaborative effort simultaneously produces two translations, for example, an English or an Urdu translation of a Kannada novel. This will make the work of fiction, poetry, or non-fiction accessible to a relatively larger readership than is possible with the English translation alone.

What follows is a series of observations about the process of transliteration, translation and collaborative translation arising out of my experiences since as a translator and an editor of translations from various languages into Urdu. The purpose is to compare the feel and the characteristics of this work of translation with other works that I have handled in the past, and to emphasise the need for more translations of contemporary regional literature not only into English but into other regional languages to promote a shared understanding of the life and culture of South Asia and the world around it.

All translations into Urdu, except those from Sindhi, Hindi and Punjabi were done from their English translations. The Hindi poems by Sarweshwar Dayal Saxena were only transliterated almost word for word into the Urdu script by Asad Mohammad Khan, with unfamiliar Sanskrit-based words explained in footnotes.

In the process, I found that this strategy made a lot of difference, as the cultural distance between Persian and Urdu was much less compared to that between Persian and English, or between English and Urdu. Many years later, I observed the same thing while editing the Urdu translation of a short novel Afrah-al Qubba by Naguib Mahfouz. For this, the translator, Fahmida Riaz, had used, along with its English translation Wedding Song , the original Arabic text as reference. When Aaj was launched as a literary periodical in , it decided to mainly focus on Urdu translations of literature from various parts of the world.

Although its issues so far have showcased groundbreaking original Urdu literary works, these have been presented alongside translated short stories, novels, poems, autobiographies and essays to a small but interesting, mostly young and multilingual Pakistani readership.

This literary endeavour has not only enhanced the literary and social horizon of its readers and developed a taste for translated literature, but it has also encouraged upcoming Urdu writers to experiment by taking inspiration from translated works. With a view to closely study the development of contemporary fiction, particularly short stories, in languages close to Urdu, a series of special issues of Aaj were devoted to Hindi, Persian and Arabic literature.

Gradually, the journal began to publish entire novels and autobiographies, both original and translated, in a single issue. Several excellent translators were encouraged to undertake book-length translations for Aaj.

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Literary Translation Project

Over these years, I participated in collaborative translations of two Marathi novels with Gouri Patwardhan, a Marathi-speaking film-maker. This is in addition to the more significant fact that the two languages are culturally closer to Urdu than to English. While publishing Hindi texts in Urdu for the anthologies of modern Hindi short stories, I discovered that less than five per cent of the words needed to be changed, a fact which points to these being identical languages in a large part of their creative writing.

When I came across the online transliteration software from Patiala, I decided to use it to convert two of my Urdu translations into Hindi, that is, the Nagari script. In order to see how the language employed in my Urdu translations communicated with the Hindi literary readership, I submitted both to the prestigious Hindi quarterly, Pahal published from Jabalpur.

On my suggestion, the novelist, Kaushalya Kumarasinghe, agreed to participate in this collaborative translation. The cultural proximity, in this case, did not consist of words and sounds, as Urdu and Sinhala are linguistically quite distant from each other, but of cultural milieu, social norms and political conditions. What is more, it turned out that the novel deals, among other things, with the theme of a failed or dysfunctional communication between two sets of characters and, indeed, between two communities divided by religion and language. They are seen operating in this context aided by supporting characters whose relationship with one another is professional and material rather than personal.

The lives of the latter set of characters go through hardships and disasters for economic and political reasons such as sexual exploitation, forced disappearances, suppression of protest, but the former set of characters remain unaffected by this. On the one hand these situations remind one of similar conditions in urban centres elsewhere in South Asia, and on the other, point specifically to a lack of communication between urban and rural communities, between the northern and southern parts of the island, between the Sinhala and Tamil linguistic groups and even between different Tamil-speaking communities divided by faith and social backgrounds.

To explain such an interrelationship, we need to consider the unstable space in which mainstream readings or metatexts of a literary work are distinguished and influence each other. A highly significant metatext or an incorporation of metatexts may shape an interpretive tradition that decides how the work in question must be read.

In this section, the factor of translation is added to the whole process. Hermeneutic translation theories have long explored factors such as subjectivity, multivocality, uncertainty, and conflict of interpretations. Two recently proposed theories are translational hermeneutics Cercel et al. These theoretical streams have both addressed historicity and one of its major by-products, traditionality , in translation.

In the first unified version of translational hermeneutics, Cercel et al. In their discussion, which is inspired by the theories of such thinkers as Schleiermacher, Heidegger, Gadamer, Eco, and Ricoeur, Cercel et al. Persons are not static objects, but change continuously in their interactions in a community and within their general culture. Both literary criticism and literary translation can strengthen or violate historical memory although a translation may or may not pursue the line of interpretation in the existing metatexts.

In other words, the working of a translator, as a social agent, may lead to new readings while creating innovative horizons of understanding. Does this suggest that a translation itself can be a metatext? Emphasizing that any translation of a literary text is an interpreted version of the text, Fitch tries to figure out how translation, text, and metatext may be related. As a result, there are borders that roughly distinguish translation and criticism in an interpretive tradition. Hafez Hafiz of Shiraz 14th century AD is regarded as one of the greatest Persian poets with international fame.

It would be extremely difficult, even if possible, to collect all pieces of the corpus written about his work.

Literary Translation: Readings, Interviews, and Resources

One of the purposes of this field is to systematize the writings about Hafez and The Divan. Although categorizing all of these readings appears to be an insurmountable challenge, some major critics of The Divan have explicitly or implicitly traced the existence of interpretive traditions that have put T he Divan into their respective schemes of understanding. Most obviously, the trail of these readings could be found in international translations of the book. Proposing a categorization of The Divan interpretive traditions, Shamisa, an Iranian literary critic, has numerated three major lines of interpretation: mystical, Khayyamian, and historical-political The mystical tradition, which is the oldest one, involves a creative interpretation of mystical and religious themes, which are usually rooted in Ancient Persian and Indian belief systems Shamisa A specification of Islamic mysticism lies in its individualism and shapelessness, as it is not governed by any universal framework Sattari As Dargahi explains, the proponents of this reading believe The Divan , at least in part, is a reaction to deterministic aspects of life e.

The historical-political tradition concentrates on The Divan as a historical sample of the period in which Hafez lived. This is not, however, the only categorization of the readings explicating The Divan. In his voluminous book on Hafez, Estelami, another Iranian literary critic, suggests an implicit categorization in his reading of individual ghazels or sometimes individual lines. According to this construal, there are romantic, mystical, and anti-hypocritical traditions that govern the interpretation of The Divan Estelami although, unlike Shamisa, Estelami does not exemplify the followers of each tradition.

Instead, he mainly relies on the lines and their themes per se. It must be noted that, in popular belief, the majority of the ghazels are considered to be romantic. From the perspective of translation, metatexts can be used to find how a literary translation situates itself in a particular tradition.

In light of the interpretive traditions explicating The Divan , one can analyze how the collection of signs, symbols, and values in the ghazels may be transformed into a particular reading. Let us take a look at some English translations of the first ghazel in The Divan :. The above translation demonstrates his expertise in Arabesque and Persian symbolism.

Despite the imagery in the poem, it is normally read as a ghazel with mystical implications. Estelami, for instance, highlights that the lines suggest a mystical atmosphere The question is which interpretive tradition is represented in the translation. Yet, a reinforced feminine presence in the translation sweet perfume , her tresses , her grace, well-loved face , emotional disturbance mad career of me , infamy , moon clouded , whirlpool's awful roar , labour sore , and romantic ornaments wine , taverner , collectively situate the poem in a romantic reading, as specified in the metatexts.

The romantic atmosphere in The Divan may appear in different forms in different ghazels, but it generally swings from bursts of passionate emotion to laments over lost love. Ghazel 1, if it is seen as a romantic expression, depicts a condensed narrative of sweetness leading to emotional turmoil.

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Other elements strengthen the primary romantic reading: beautiful locks , dark ringlets , my own path of love. However, the sequence of events, following a twist pilgrimage , dark midnight , the tempestuous whirlpool , reveals the reality of earthly love to the speaker now I am in bad repute , as a result of which he finds Divinity His presence , Stick to the One you know , let go of imaginary trips.

The structure of the narrative is framed as follows:. There are already versions of such narrative patterns in Persian literature. In the poem Wild Deer , which is usually published as an attachment to some of The Divan versions, the beloved is characterized as a fleeting, mysterious deer. Trying to join her, the speaker goes through several stages of hardship by embarking on a long journey.

The poem concludes in a number of witty remarks, but, interestingly, it again expresses a sense of disappointment in earthly love and finds solace in the H o ur i s heavenly women usually translated as angles in English. Therefore, although the poem may represent an integrated version, it does not suggest a new theme. First, he avoids the problem of pronoun use altogether in the second line:.

Other images too contribute to a religious devotion narrative throughout the poem: chattels of existence , Magians , holy traveler , presence from Him , abandon the world. The central term the Beloved can be perfectly associated with Divine Love as perceived in Abrahamic religions.

This depiction roughly fits into the mystical reading traditionalized by the readers of Hafez. In the version, Bicknell uses paratextual rewriting through glossing the English terms in footnotes There is no sense of wine-drinking or exhibited feminine image in the translation. In another representation, Avery and Heath-Stubbs start their translation with a paratextual note which provides an encapsulated version of the poem:. The translators avoid any romantic expression, as the wine-bearer or Saki is simply called Boy in their version.

Again, this representation emphasizes a mode of devotion rather than a romantic one. Line 1 also implies a Khayyamian conviction a sense of loss to be cured by wine but further part-whole cross-referencing conveys a romantic or mystical reading. The stratification of the readings, of course, is accompanied by tension and denial. For instance, Dargahi rules out the basis of the mystical or Sufistic approaches despite the large corpus of writings advocating such readings.

These choices create very remote narrative worlds, implying that literary translation criticism can be a highly dynamic, variegated, and even controversial field, which deserves more consideration on the part of literary critics and literary historiographers. Literary traditions, especially as far as canonical works of literature are concerned, are normally constituted by a collection of approaches that share philosophical foundations and thematic arrangements.

As a result of the incorporation of such approaches, a literary tradition is configured. Metanarratives, in the form of traditions, decide the axiological content of literary works. They try to explain how literary production can be interpreted and how wide its range of postulates is. This study focused on the interaction of literary translation and literary criticism.

An interpretive tradition is composed of one or several critical approaches that share philosophical, social, and ideological foundations. A tradition is a composite of metatexts connected to each other over time.

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A translator is regarded as an active agent in making decisions about the axiological dimensions of a literary work and how it may be situated in a particular tradition. Additionally, metatexts that formulate a tradition can have practical implications for evaluators of literary translation. Specifying the backgrounds of a translation or how it could be intertextually associated with one or several metatexts can considerably simplify the process of decision-making for evaluators.

The chain of texts and their affiliations can readily help literary translation critics to approach a translation. An interpretive tradition represents a holistic entity which encompasses both minimal and maximal elements of textuality. The meaning of an item such as a sign, a symbol, a single word is decided through a measure of interaction that the item has with the entirety of the items that are perceived to influence it.

A fundamental problem, however, is that one cannot decide the range of the influence with absolute certainty.

The dynamics of understanding, in fact, involves the interplay of several factors that together shape a whole, although most of the factors remain in the background. In translational hermeneutics, the schemata decided by the historical situation, communal conventions, and personal improvement are taken into account as forces that shape meaning Cercel et al.

To provide an example of analysis, the study considered several English translations of a ghazel of Hafez. The review of the works of the literary critics revealed that five major traditions have conceptualized the ghazels: mystical, Khayyamian, historical-political, romantic, and anti-hypocritical Shamisa, Estelami.

The idea of stratified lines of reading in interpretive traditions, of course, only paves the way for more comprehensive investigations into criticism and translation. One interesting topic for further scrutiny is the way lingual aesthetics and poetic considerations are framed in a translation.

It was clarified in this study that two translations may fall under the same interpretive tradition although they may employ very different modes of formal representation. Such translational variability in form along with narrative selectivity could only be explained when theories of interpretation are integrated into those of poetics. A researcher, for instance, may want to probe into how translators respond to the poetic judgments of metatexts while considering questions of interpretation.

Are the translations following a particular tradition e. More fundamentally, is there a relationship between tradition and poetics? Atherton, Carol. Palgrave Macmillan, Avery, Peter, and John Heath-Stubbs. Thirty Poems. Butler and Tanner, Ltd, Bassnett, Susan.

Bicknell, Herman. Harvard University Library, Cercel, Larisa, et al. Clarke, Henry Wilberforce. English Translation of the Divan of Hafez. Edited by Behrouz Homayoun Far, vol. Dargahi, Mahmood. Estelami, Mohammad. Fitch, Brian T. Gadamer, Hans-Georg.

Translation, Editing, Communications

Philosophical Hermeneutics. Translated and edited by David E. Linge, University of California Press, Truth and Method. Translated by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshal, Continuum, Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree. Habib, M.