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September 18, 2017 3 min read



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The final day of Manipal International Literature and Arts Platform (MILAP) began with practitioners of Indian and foreign languages discussing several aspects of literary translation and the transcendence of boundaries in language at the Gangubhai Hanagal Auditorium. The five-member panel consisted of Aleix Ruiz Falques, Kamala Ramaswamy, Dr. Nalini J Thampi, Dr. Sajal Dey and Dr. N T Bhat.

Keeping in line with the topic of discussion, ‘Literature Across Borders and Languages’, Dr. Sajal Dey, poet, and translator, set the tone for comparisons of historical developments to literary
advancements over time in the context of building relations between nations. “Following Russian
linguist Gerasim Lebedev’s return to his country after visiting India, Russia started taking an interest in Indian language and culture. Soon after, Sanskrit was introduced in Russian universities” said Dr. Dey, elaborating on the early traces of Indo-Russian linguistic ties.

According to him, the current literary and political scenario between the two countries can be linked to events that shaped the erstwhile Soviet Union. “During the two revolutions in 1905 and in 1917, intellectuals in the Indian media reported the events and compared the situation to the Indian
freedom struggle very well, which was disliked by the British administration. This sparked the
imagination of progressive intellectuals, who went to Russia to study at universities there, also
involving themselves in the language and literature. This continues today, wherein multiple
scenarios including literature, India is very interested in Russia”, he said.

Furthering the consensus on literature extending across boundaries, Dr. N T Bhat, founder-secretary of the Indo-German Society in Manipal, claimed that his works of German to Kannada translations were centred on building bridges between India and Germany. “The main purpose of my translations from Kannada to German was to make the reach wider, across borders both in the community as well as geographically. It was to establish a link between India and Germany”, he said.

“The process isn’t a bed of roses”

The practitioners dedicated a large part of their two-hour discussion to emphasize on the challenges faced in the translation process, mainly concerned with foreign to Indian language translations or vice-versa.

Noted for her contribution to Kannada translations of women’s works in French, Kamala
Ramaswamy elaborated on many such challenges she faced in the process. “It is easy to translate
between Indian languages, but to do that with foreign languages, we must know their psychology
and culture. The problem I faced when I wished to translate French works of Arab women was that
the physical expressions in French were different than those in Kannada, and to bring the rhythm of that language is very tough,” she said.

Aleix Ruiz Falques, a scholar in linguistics with a Master’s degree in Sanskrit, delved into the issue of polysemic words in languages. “How do we convey specificity in the destination language? A word may have several meanings generally in a language. In ancient India, there were not many
translations but many commentaries. What we find is that the commentator gives different
interpretations of the same work. I translated Kalidasa’s Meghaduta, but for this, I followed a piece
of commentary. These are the challenges I face when translating an ancient language to modern ones”, he said, adding that religious and philosophical texts are more challenging in particular, as people have different interpretations of the same.

Translation’s way forward

The panelists concluded the discussion by envisioning the future of translation, touching upon the
academic aspect of the subject. Dr. Nalini Thampi, a professor at the Pondicherry University, which is India’s only university to offer a Master’s degree in translation studies, discussed the subject’s trends in today’s scenario. Sharing hope for a more practical-minded approach, she said, “In
translation, the theory comes on its own, but it is the text (to be translated), which gets to your
heart and gives you motivation.” Reciprocating her views, Dr. N T Bhat added, “Translation is an art, and art is not just imitation. It is to encourage new work.”

The discussion was moderated by Rahul Putty, co-ordinator at the Centre for Foreign Languages,
Manipal University.

The Manipal Journal is the official media partner for MILAP, Manipal’s first literary and art platform, conducted on 15, 16 and 17 September 2017.

Edited by Sruti Srinivasan

Featured Image Courtesy: Mahalakshmi R