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.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

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."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

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,