Translation Cannot Be Both Faithful and Beautiful

Published: 12th October 2015 04:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th October 2015 04:23 AM   |  A+A-


BHUBANESWAR: The presence of the translator in a text is important. Translators should not get into the illusion and fantasy of being invisible and should try to be transparent in their attempt, said author and translator Mani Rao on the concluding day of Odisha Literary Festival-2015 here on Sunday.

Speaking on the topic ‘Translating the classics: what not to do?”, Mani, who has authored ‘Bhagavad Gita’ and ‘Kalidasa For The 21st Century’, said one should refrain from making dead translation by missing out on all the texture and drama of the text.

“After reading the Bhagavad Gita for the first time, I was shocked. Contrary to my expectations, I found it delightful. In Sanskrit, the tone is different. The Gita has drama, innuendo, humour and there is a dialogue happening between two persons. And in order to bring this playfulness of the Bhagavad Gita out, translators should consider the text as an entire cognitive unit and then use the varied techniques of translation,” Rao said.

She further said the idea of a Classic is something that is imposed by posterity. People consider Kalidasa as Classic but he was modern in his own time. Translators miss the texture of a classical text by considering it ancient.

Leading the discussion, Professor and former head of Department of English, Central University of Hyderabad, Sachidananda Mohanty said a Classical book is transcultural and a text which has stood the test of time.

Drawing from the theories of eminent translators George Steiner and Susan Basnett, Mohanty said translation cannot be both faithful and beautiful at the same time.

“There should be diversity in translation. We must get rid of prototypes and texts which are mechanically replicated,” he said.

Calling editors and publishers ‘villains’ of translation, Mohanty said they are the roadblocks in the path of translators. “They often cut out important parts from a translated text and stop the translators from being faithful to the original work,” he said.

Editor and founder of Blaft Publications Rakesh Khanna said the knowledge of source and target languages is must for a translator. “Translators should stay away from assuming a certain cultural context about the book which they are translating. They should be sensitive towards the actual context in which the book was written,” he said.

Talking about machine translation taking over, Khanna said it is not possible in near future. “Machines have a long way to go before producing something close to real translation,” he said.


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