Friday, Jul 01, 2022
Outlook.com
Opinion

Our Stories, Their Words: How More Writers From The West Are Now Translating Indian Literature

Earlier, we Indians had to translate into English to reach the West. But now it’s people from the West who are attracted to Hindi literature and are translating our works, says Gulzar

Rhyme and reason: Gulzar, poet, lyricist and filmmaker.
Rhyme And Reason: Gulzar, poet, lyricist and filmmaker. Photograph: Getty Images

I read the translated version of Geetanjali Shree’s novel, Tomb of Sand, before I picked up the original in Hindi, Ret Samadhi. It’s a very well-narrated story.  Interestingly, I was guided to the English translation by Harish Trivedi’s piece in Outlook. When I read the review, I went back to the Hindi version. I am a slow reader of Hindi; my medium is Urdu. Having read both, I felt that it has been translated really well. Somewhere, it gets the right tone and the nuances of colloquial Punjabi—the novel is set in the backdrop of Partition and its character travels to Pakistan. That’s the most difficult part of a translated work.

Overall, it is a great moment for translated works in general and Indian literature in particular. It’s wonderful that the novel has caught the attention of the international body of literature. Earlier, we Indians had to translate into English to reach the West, particularly during the time of Rabindranath Tagore. But now it’s people from the West who are attracted to Hindi literature and are translating our works. In this connection, the efforts of the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilisations), a non-profit institute in Paris, is highly commendable. They have been translating a lot of work from Indian languages. Several of my own books of stories and poems have been and are still being translated into French. 

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