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Capturing the Nuances of Bengali Writing


Sanjukta Dasgupta

VERMILLION CLOUDS: A CENTURY OF WOMEN'S STORIES FROM BENGAL
By Radha Chakravarty
Women Unlimited, Delhi, 2010, pp. 231, Rs. 350.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 7 July 2010

This collection of 18 Bengali short stories spans a hundred years of Bengali women’s writing. Radha Chakravarty has already established herself as a skilled translator and this collection further validates the impression that she can transfer and translate with commendable ease, successfully eliminating the disconnect between the source text and the target text. In her introduction Chakravarty has outlined her agenda as a translator and her stated endeavour of constructing the nuances of the original in the translated text has been the toughest challenge encountered by most translators of literary texts. Chakravarty states, ‘In translating the selected stories I have tried to preserve the flavour of the original Bengali texts, while rendering them in readable modern English for today’s readers’. The essential role of the translator is that of a cultural ambassador. It is not merely linguistic translation that is of significance, the implied cultural code switching that the text conveys, depends often on the malleability of the target language. In this context this reviewer appreciates the engagement of the translator, without which translation of such texture would not have been possible. Chakravarty herself concludes her introduction with the following comment: ‘That the cultural and linguistic transfer is not always smooth reminds us that it is the translator’s role to promote understanding by bridging the gaps between languages, cultures and periods in history, but not to erase these differences altogether’ (p. xxv). Eighteen short stories by eighteen different women writing through the colonial and post-Independence periods of India, using a common language, Bengali, for creative expression however reveal quite clearly their different speaking styles and ideological standpoints. Yet, despite the differences in content, style and approach, in the representation of gender issues and interpersonal relationships, remarkable too is the sameness that emerges. It is interesting to note that the first nine stories span a period of about seventy years. This period straddles both the colonial and postcolonial eras. The stories express with atypical confidence the problems of child marriage, marital incompatibility, widowhood and the subject position of the women protagonists who invariably seem to be like entrapped human beings seeking at least relief if not release from the insensitivity that is internalized within the much valorized patriarchal construct of domesticity. Two stories are by Muslim Bengali women and fall under the first group, while altogether there are sixteen stories by Hindu Bengali women. Along with gender therefore factors ...


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