Why a nation remains “lost in translation”
Shihab Sarkar |
05 Aug 2021 20:23:58
It has long been a fashion in academia across the country, particularly those focused on literature, to insist on the need to increase the number of translated works. Some of the people eager to see more and more foreign language books translated into Bengali speak strongly about these efforts. It is implied that when the question of translating foreign books into Bengali arises, English is the center of attention. As this is truly the global lingua franca in today’s world, readers in Bangladesh can access books written in any European language through the English versions of the publications. Most of the educated class in Bangladesh understand English.
Books written in French, German, Russian, Spanish, and many other major languages may be inaccessible to academics and those accustomed to reading with pleasure. But those translated into English offer them the opportunity to taste the essence of these works through a second phase of translation, that is to say from English into Bengali. When it comes to translated works, people usually refer to books of the literary genre. A handful of foreign language experts can browse said books written in their original language, for example French or Spanish. Many others have no difficulty reading the books translated into English. But a large number of average educated people remain deprived of the hidden pleasure in English of these books or the versions in other languages. Most of them are found looking impatiently at the Bengali translations of the books.
In fact, it is this reality on the ground that prompts academics, academics and literary critics to emphasize the easy availability of books translated into Bengali. They urge the relentless search for translators. But where are the efficient translators in this country? Average publishers are the least knowledgeable about books and translators into foreign languages. But, in fact, there are people with their innate ability to translate. Workshops can train participants in the basic rules and skills of translation. In Bangladesh the majority of translators belong to amateur groups. Despite their amateurism, it is these people who mainly respond to the demand for ancient and modern classics by translating them into Bengali.
In many developed countries, they organize short or long translation courses. In a sense, these are special classes. In many ways, the United States has played a pioneering role in these translation workshops, similar to the poetry workshops held on college campuses throughout the year. It is true that translation workshop participants receive formal lessons on how to translate prose or poetry into their native language from a foreign language, especially English — or vice versa. versa. Many have reservations about training professional translators using this straitjacket method. Because, a translator must also have a creative self in him. Literally or mechanically translated books mostly annoy serious readers of literature. A major aspect of this feature is that it helps to develop a kind of revulsion for the foreign literary works within them. The most important qualification required of a good translator is his spontaneity. A basic element of this specialty is the linguistic competence of the translator. You must be exceptionally competent in the two languages concerned. The language of the work from which he is translating and the language into which he is translating. Translation cannot remain a tedious job, if the person concerned is efficient in both languages. Ishwar Chandra Bidwasagar translated Shakespeare’s Comedy of Mistakes into Bangla Bhranti Bilas. The Bangla version proved to be a critically acclaimed piece. It was warmly received by readers and the public of the time.
While in England, Rabindranath Tagore himself translated Geetanjali into English in prose form. He later put it into poetry form in collaboration with Irish poet WB Yeats. They were called the song offerings. It is this humble but containing the essence of the Eastern spiritual message that won him the Nobel Prize in 1913.
Translation of literary works continued into the 1930s. A few great poets of the decade translated German and British poetry into Bengali. The novelists are not left out. At the same time, Premendra Mitra translated The Outsider by Albert Camus into Bengali. He called her Ochena (foreigner). A notable aspect of translating literary works into a foreign language at the time was the lack of professional creative translators. Buddhadev Bose appeared on the scene like lightning. His collections of translated poems by Charles Baudelaire, Rainer Maria Rilke and Friedrich Holderlin still inspire the admiration and respect of readers. In addition, Bose’s translation of Kalidas’ Indian epic poem Meghdoot has long been considered a treasure trove of the world’s literary body. Three decades later, in the 1960s, enlightened translators like Manabendra Bandyopaddhay entered the scene.
Meanwhile, in East Bengal, which later became Bangladesh, a number of poets and novelists have proven their worth in the work of translation over time. They notably included Shamsur Rahman, Syed Shamsul Huq et al. Non-literary people also emerged as translators like Fateh Lohani, who was basically a consummate actor. Many modern writers have proven their skill in translation. Translation continues in 21st century Bangladesh. It has now become clear that the work is not the work of linguists or academics. But there is still a great shortage of professional translators. Even publishers who only publish translated books do not have their own translators. In the 1960s, Franklin Books, a wing of USIS in Dhaka, published a large number of collections of American authors. Fiction and short story writers and poets across the country engaged in the translation work. The translators included Shammsur Rahman (Robert Froster Kabita), Syed Shamsul Huq (Srabon Raja, translation of the novel by Saul Bellow Henderson the Rain King), Fateh Lohani (Samudrasangam, translation of Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway), Allan Po ‘r Golpo (Selected Stories by Edgar Allan Poe) etc. On top of that, Shamsur Rahman translated Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Syed Shamsul Huq introduced readers to the tormented world of Macbeth. These have been published by other houses. Previously, Ahmed Sofa had tried to translate Goethe’s Faust.
These days, a few large-scale Bangladeshi publishers have started offering books translated into Bengali. According to them, these books have a demand among a large part of the readers. Unfortunately, most of these works translated into Bengali have many disadvantages like poor translation, lack of lucidity in their use of Bengali, especially in the case of novels and stories, inept editing, etc. These books cannot be placed alongside upcoming Bengali translations. out in Calcutta. Bangladeshi publishers should enter this difficult field with full equipment. Only a handful of them can boast of proficiency in both Bengali and English. Many of them don’t even have a rough idea of the global English language publishing industry. It is not an insurmountable problem.
Large enlightened editors may appoint full-time editors. Their duties should range from collecting books worthy of translation, to contacting foreign writers, and carrying out delicate tasks related to copyright issues and payment to original authors. These are imperatives for professional publishers. In addition to improving the goodwill of publishers, these functions will ensure them continued dividends.
Reading habits continue to change. At the same time, readers’ preferences for foreign books translated into Bengali have increased over the decade. It is therefore high time that the big publishers started looking for talented translators. They could be brought to remain attached to certain publishing houses. These new trends will only add to the variety of publications from Bangladesh. A few publishers have started to focus on opening up their translation divisions. Due to their makeshift arrangements, they cannot hire translators who can be fully trusted. That should change. What contribution the relevant government institutions have made over the past decades by publishing well translated and edited books is an enigma. Because they have the funds and manpower to remain active year round, government-run institutions cannot afford to remain inactive. Unlike commercial publishers, they also have the means to build pools of translators.