G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lost in Translation: Shivaji, Tolstoy and Hemingway.

Newsweek October 15, 2007 reports that two new English translations of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace “ are being published.

Malcolm Jones says: “Over its lifetime, the book has become a yardstick for quality—and sometimes just a yardstick. "As long as 'War and Peace' ..." is a comparison understood even by people who have never cracked its covers”.

“War and Peace” is arguably the greatest novel ever written.

Sane-guruji has spoken at length about enriching Marathi by getting world’s best in it through translation. He himself translated a few great books into Marathi (See at the bottom of this post selection of his translation work). But Marathi has remained quite poor when you count the number of great books it still doesn’t have.

I bought “War and Peace” (translator not named, Jainco Publishers, New Delhi) in July 2007, cracked its covers alright but never went beyond page two! I remember writer Sunita Deshpande सुनीता देशपांडे writing to another writer G A Kulkarni जी ए कुलकर्णी in a letter that she finished reading it. It sounded more like a relief than a celebration! I think G A himself never read it! His tastes in literature were often arcane.

Translators of two versions are now fighting over quality of their translation. One says: "… all the previous translations left things out and got things wrong.”
Translation is quite a tricky art.

Vilas Sarang has written at length how poorly P L Deshpande translated Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” into Marathi. Pu La should have known better as he himself, quite delightfully, has spoken about difficulties of translating many words and concepts from Marathi into English.

The best example of importance of quality of translation has come from D G Godse द ग गोडसे. He wrote an essay “...For me, (my) land’s defence (is) self-essential” (....इं कसरा मुहफिजते वतन ख़ुद लाज़िम) now part of his book “Shakti Saushthav” (Popular Prakashan 1972).

The essay is about a famous letter in Farsi sent by Shivaji (scribe-Nil Prabhu Munshi) to Aurangzeb circa 1664-65.

Godse proves how badly it has been translated by number of historians like Jadunath Sarkar, Riyasatkar Sardesai, Babasaheb Purandare. They have failed us. They deprived us of a great thing of beauty. The letter has such literary qualities that it needed great sensitivity and deep knowledge of Farsi to be translated. Some Farsi experts even claim that Shivaji has quoted few lines from old Farsi poetry, most likely from Shahnama.

With the help of Farsi experts, Godse then attempts a translation of the letter from Farsi into Marathi.

When I read it, my respect for Shivaji went up several notches. He indeed is a worthy successor of Ashok and Akbar.

Loss was entirely mine that the letter was not taught to me in my school. It’s my poverty that I still don’t read Farsi. How can I even attempt to fully appreciate the work of Shivaji unless every historian shows sensitivity of Godse?


Artist: Barney Tobey The New Yorker 20 Apr 1963

(Newspaper strike in US began on Dec 8, 1962 and lasted for 114 days. Obviously people like me cannot finish "War and Peace" in those many days!)

Selection of Sane-guruji's translation work: Meek Heritage,The Mayor of Casterbridge, Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection, The Black Tulip, Les Miserables, The Cloister and the Hearth,Tolstoy-What Is Art?, The Story of Philosophy

2 comments:

vacha said...

Namaskaram. Whatever you have said of Marathi holds good for all langauges. Even in Tamil my mother tongue which boasts of so many good translations there are equally bad and dangerous lots. As the editor of the magazine brahmintoday which is published from chennai foe the past 80 months { pl visit brahmintoday.org to know more} i would much like to include the content in the article i writ in it about chitpavan brahmins, of course with your kind permission and due acknowledgement. I was in Mumbai for 15 years and know a bit of Marathi and and its great sons
vasan pl reply

aniruddha g. kulkarni said...

Thanks Vacha.

Please go ahead with your plans. You have my permission.

I will visit your site soon.

best,