Some years ago, I had reviewed a different translation of Durgeshnandini for TBR. To revisit the same novel now via this new translation is to be reminded again of the durability of Bankim in our collective literary imagination. When Durgeshnandini first appeared, it had taken the Bengali literary world by storm, as a landmark in the emergence of a new genre. Today, in view of current controversies surrounding creative interpretations of history, it is worth asking why our writers, translators, publishers and readers compulsively return to the past in their search for inspiration. Does this re-invocation of the past act as a distancing device, a form of escapism, or a veiled engagement with the contemporary via an apparent engagement with a different era? Why a new translation now, when several English versions are already available? Such questions encompass issues concerning readership, changing approaches to translation, relationships between ‘vernacular’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ texts, and the dynamics of the literary marketplace.
Travel writing, in the Bengali literary tradition, has an extraordinary appeal. From first-hand accounts of perilous/adventurous journeys to faraway lands to more comfortable ones nearer home, Bengalis love them all. They also love completely fictional narratives as long as they offer the ‘real’ feel of travel. It is not surprising, therefore, to find an overwhelming number of Bengali writers engaging in such writing. A quick survey of published travelogues suggests that their quality vary substantially; some are wonderful pieces of literature, while others, often like the Lonely Planet ones, are typically touristy and dull.
In today’s globalized world, the role, focus and worth of translation as the contemporary lingua franca can hardly be overstated. As such, it comes as no wonder that, it is through the translation of his selected works (in English and in some regional languages as well) that Mahabaleshwar Sail, renowned for his fiction across the Konkani literary world, has ventured beyond the boundaries of his language, State and the country. His major translated works are, Kali Ganga (1998), The Kiln (1910), The Forest Saga (2016) and Age of Frenzy (2017), and interestingly all have been translated into English by Vidya Pai.
The Odia word, bheda, the title of both the Odia novel and its English version, translates into social difference. It has a subsidiary meaning as well, penetration of a target, which reinforces the baneful effects of difference. The novel brings out the evil of social difference. Now what kind of social difference? For it is seen to be neither of the two familiar forms of it, the difference of rank and the difference in nature.
In her piece, ‘The Distance to Lahore’, Surjit Sarna, with a deep sense of nostalgia and sadness, asks the pointed question somewhat helplessly: ‘What wrong had we done that we were being made to suffer the consequences of the wrong decisions of our leaders? Our generation has borne this tragedy of history! I will never forget you Lahore, I’ll never forget you…’ If only the citizens subject to questionable political decisions had the wherewithal to deal with such decisions, many historical tragedies may have been averted! With a sense of helplessness, Maddi, a character in ‘Ointment’ by Sanwal Dhami, laments: ‘…We murdered the centuries old bonding between the people, by listening to some unknown, unseen people. Today, when we are face to face with the consequences, we now realize how cozy and warm our nests were at that time! Now, I have come to understand the pain of birds who lose their nests…’
Firstly, the spartan simplicity of the titlemai, (all in lower case), is an intuitively accurate choice. It has a generic resonance that touches a chord in the reader. Next, the opening line ‘We always knew that mother had a weak spine’ makes us wonder if the pun is intended.
Astalwart champion of the socialist cause, Premchand gained iconic status and world-wide fame by virtue of his socially realistic approach, deep and strong ties with his surroundings, authentic depiction of rural life and its issues, realistic representation of proletarian experiences, existential angst and a host of other subject-matters.
Azra Abbas is a renowned Urdu poet whose writings reflect the feminist uprising in Karachi. In 1981 Ms. Abbas had compiled a prose poem, Neend ki Musafatain, in the stream of consciousness style and since then she has published a compilation of short stories, a novel, her memoirs and a collection of poetry.
Kicking up Dust is based on Abba’s childhood memories. The very title suggests that Azra was a non-conformist and thereby the centre of chaos and confusion.
Abeautifully brought out book by Zubaan, Junoon-e-Intezaar could well be a collector’s item. Right from its black jacket cover and bits of Urdu calligraphy adorning its pages, along with the rare Urdu manuscript appended at the end, Junoon-e-Intezaar is a unique book in more than one sense. Krupa Shandilya, one of its translators, states in the Introduction that it was her fascination with the character of Umrao Jan Ada that set her on the search for the sequel to the novel Umrao Jaan Ada when she read about it in the earliest extant review of it. After a long and despairing hunt, she discovered a scanned copy on the Digital libraries India project, tracing the original document to the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad. Later with the help of her co-translator Taimoor Shahid in Pakistan, ‘thanks to the internet’, they were able to translate this rather slim novella in a matter of few months.
In the summer of 1947, the flames of Partition seared the souls of Indians and branded them with the torturous brutality of communal violence, and horrific images that would keep them in shock for generations.
The numbers vary but it is estimated that around fifteen million people were displaced and one to two million people died violent deaths.
Ismat Chughtai (1915-1991) was known, and is remembered for her frankness in writing, be it the topics she chose for her stories or the language her characters used. A distinguished writer in Urdu, Chughtai has a huge body of work to her credit—five collections of short stories, seven novels, three novellas along with various sketches. Surprisingly, not much academic work on Chughtai (in English) has been published as a compilation. Tahira Naqvi and Professor Asaduddin are the two popular translators of her work in English, while the former has translated The Crooked Line (Tehri Lakeer) and A Very Strange Man (Ajeeb Aadmi) and the latter has translated Lifting the Veil and her memoirs, A Life in Words among her other works.
Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869) is one of the great poets of the world and certainly nineteenth-century India’s greatest Urdu poet. Even after one and a half century of his death his reputation is not only intact but grows with every passing day. The reasons are several, the most abiding being that there is a certain metaphysical and existential core to his poetry that will never get dated despite the technological onslaught of modern times. In voicing his personal concern about faith and existence and the angst of his age he also articulated certain fundamental anxieties of our own age and those of every thinking man.