'The constraints of a translation free you up'

Renowned translator says writing is not a lucrative vocation in India

Published: 24th September 2015 04:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th September 2015 04:41 AM   |  A+A-

KORAMANGALA:Writing within the constraints of a translation can make you think more creatively, believes Arunava Sinha, an award-winning translator who has introduced many English readers to the world of Bengali literature.

translation.jpgAt ‘The Translation Equation’, a workshop on writing that he and writer Rheea Mukherjee will conduct in the city this weekend, translations will be used to stimulate participants to think differently. The workshop is being organised by Write Leela Write, a content and design lab co-founded by Muhkerjee. The organisers believe knowing English is all that is needed. “I believe in using local references in writing,” says Muhkerjee.

While translating books, Sinha draws upon his own imagination and experiences. For example, when characters speak in their mother tongues, you look at the various angles you can explore. “It’s like you have been given an outline of the drawing and you have to fill in the colours. You can choose the palette, the textures. You just need to paint within the lines.”

He goes on to draw another analogy. “I tell you to write about a topic using a set 100 words. Then you might begin to think, ‘Oh, I can come up with a poem.’ Otherwise, you might have stuck to some other form.”

At the workshop, apart from discussing two translation excerpts, Sinha also plans to speak on translating based on sound. “I’m planning to play a recording of birds chirping, and get people to write about that. It’s like listening to something in a language you don’t understand and trying to translate it based on the sound.”

According to him, publishers’ interest in English translations has increased over the years but this is yet to be reflected in readers. Sinha, who works as a consultant for the books section for digital daily Scroll, once said if one is serious about translation, it’s advisable to have a day job that is not totally unrelated, and if possible, marry someone rich. When asked about this, he replies with a laugh, “Yes, there’s hardly any money in writing in India. So if you’re a translator, there is even less.”

Write Leela Write

The content design lab has been conducting creative writing workshops on topics like gender and translations. ‘The Translation Equation’ is its fourth. The workshop will be held at Atta Galatta, Koramangala from 10.30 am to 1.30 pm on Saturday and Sunday. To register, write to m rheea@writeleelawrite.com. Passes are priced at Rs 3,500.

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