What will be the next Great Indian Novel? An original work in English or a regional language novel translated into English?
Translation experts on Saturday pinned hopes that the next Great Indian Novel would come from a regional Indian language and also felt that more should be done right at the classroom-level to promote Indian literature. They also called for more recognition for the translators.
Ace translator Arunava Sinha felt that literature students in the country are treated with great foreign literature in English while they hardly get to read Indian literature in the classrooms.
“I honestly believe that’s where translation needs to begin,” he said while speaking on ‘Translations: Are they really necessary? Do they help regional writers’ on the Second Day of Odisha Literary Festival.
Sinha felt that it is time Indian students be exposed to other languages of the country as they are to literature of other countries so that people, at least, get used to the idea of translation.
Another side of the translation is the business side of it. The publishers always look for the next big author - the likes of JK Rowling - and they always look for people who write in English. Sinha felt that publishers must realise that they have a huge wealth of literature to turn to in terms of what exists in regional languages.
Not that publishing houses are not aware of it. Major publishers have set up translation divisions and now 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the books are translations of Indian literature which, Sinha said, is a great trend.
Eminent academician and translator Prof Bikram Das dealt with the politics of translation which he felt has been in existence for quite sometime. There is a strong discourse on translation in Odisha. The problem arises, Prof Das said, when translation is made from a less dominant or powerful language to a more dominant language. However, translation from a more dominant language to a lesser dominant one does not attract such issues, he pointed out.
Prof Jatindra Nayak, whose works such as “A Time Elsewhere” and “Astride the Wheel” have been widely acclaimed, felt that stressing the need for translation would amount to overstating the obvious. “We are, whether we like it or not, embedded and steeped in a translation culture. Marquez, Dostoyevksy, Premchand, Pamuk, Tagore and UR Anantamurthy reach us only though translation for the simple reason that it is not humanly possible to know so many languages,” he said.
Nayak shared the optimism of Sinha and felt that not everything may be lost. “Arunava tells us that the Great Indian Novel will never be written in English. Even if someone attempts to write it in the sparkling prose of Salman Rushdie, it has to be an English translation of a great regional novel in India. How I wish his dreams come true,” he hoped.