Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Aging Caliban

I was in Pune for a national seminar on Indian Writing in English and in English translation and guess who came for the key note address? Our good ole' Nemade! He is the Asharam Bapu of Marathi literature. I saw him for the first time. He looked so pitiable that if I had seen him earlier, I would not have said nasty things that I have said about him. He was gloriously inane and went around flogging around the non-existent bush for an hour or two and said absolutely nothing. He said hilarious things like,`Bilingualism is a disease. Monolingualism is health' and such similar things. Well, he said all these things in English. This guy has made his living teaching English and chairing the Tagore Chair of comparative literature at the University of Mumbai. He did his MA in English, instead of Marathi. I think it is hypocrisy that is a disease and not bilingualism or multilingualism. An Aging Caliban is a pitiable creature, especially when he goes round in circles like a dog trying to catch his own tail. I felt sorry for him. May God of Tukaram confer peace upon him and may he be reborn in the 17th century in his next birth.

Otherwise the conference was as good as or as bad as any other conferences of the kind. The older teachers of English looked like as if they were teaching a fifth standard classroom and the younger teachers were equally superficial in their pursuit of more fashionable trends. Boring. I don't see any hope for the Eng. Lit academia.

My paper was on a comparative analysis of Indian Writing in English and in English translation from the point of translation studies. My paper provoked a lot of discussion. According to Madhurita it was because people understood my paper.The discussion, however, was not regarding my paper but on basics of translation. The same old debates regarding `loss' of translation, transcreation and how will you translate... kind of elementary things. I said the idea of `loss' or `gain' in translation is relative to the position of the observer. If you know the source language then a translation from that language will probably always look like a loss and if you don't know the source language, that is you are the person for whom translation is done, than any translation however `bad' is a gain. People are unable to understand relativity. They think their location is absolute. Then there were questions regarding `transcreation' and I replied that there is no need to float this word as the idea of creativity and divergence from the source text is already implict in the term translation. Then there was this senior gentleman who claimed to have read `the latest' in translation studies and that there was this term `transcreation' which was applied to freerer versions. I said that I did not mind if someone uses this term but I do not see the point of using it and that ` rewriting' is a pretty good term as it is more inclusive of various forms of cross cultural interactions. I also said that the term translation has many meanings and was more of a metaphor a trope. The senior gentleman who had read the latest did not understand what is a metaphor or trope. So much for his seniority and his latest reading of translation theory.

There were questions about the role of translator and strategies of translation. I replied that how one translates will depend on why one wants to translate and who you are translating for. Madhurita asked me which analogy or trope will I use for translation between two bhashas. I said that the Sahitya Akademi uses the term `aadan pradan'. I said that translation between the bhashas does not mean that there is no inequality between the languages and I gave example of the Bengali and the Odiya languages. Come to think of it, a metaphor for translation between the bhashas can be ` cross border terrorism'.
Wink But overall, I enjoyed my trip as I could catch up with friends and relatives.

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