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Flavour of the Region

Mahasweta Sengupta

By Sunil Gangopadhyay . Translated from the Bangla by Enakshi Chatterjee
Orient Longman, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 103, Rs. 195.00

By Premendra Mitra . Translated by Amlan Dasgupta
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2004, pp. 170, Rs. 200.00


The publishing industry in India these days is exhibiting a remarkable interest in publishing translated texts and there is every reason to be happy about the attention they are bestowing on regional language literatures. Though there is no doubt that the translation is always between one Indian language and English, at least the urge to translate into another language (which happens to rule the world!) certainly exhibits the pressure from below. The postcolonial drive to reclaim or revive the local, even when it is through the global and hegemonic English, certainly deserves to be congratulated by all readers who get to read these texts in translation.   It is really a matter of pride that the translation of Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Pratidwandi has appeared in a second print in 2005. Undoubtedly, this is a matter of immense importance that a novel that mirrored the volatile and disturbed socio-cultural context of the sixties in Bengal and in many ways represented the postcolonial dilemma is still in demand in the translated version. The original novel in Bangla captured the mind of readers because it was able to confer a form on the multitudinous experiences of frustration and despair of a family in the 1960’s, an experience that was shared by many. Siddhartha, the protagonist, struggles to get over his bleak context; he fights against the corruption and control of socio-economic mechanisms that exploited the conflicting moral values of people. He is certainly romantic because he believed in his ability to “change” the system and his family suffers the onslaughts of a fast changing social structure where earlier values seem to hold little relevance.   The novel was very efficiently translated by Enakshi Chatterjee in 1974. She is a translator who seems to be very sensitive to the nuances of both Bangla and English and that shows in this text also. It is an excellent translation because it maintains a very cautious balance between the original Bangla text and the English version; the translation appears to be absolutely spontaneous and “natural” not because the translator wants to make it “readable” but because there is an effort to retrieve the life of the original. The translator admits that she found Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Pratidwandi “presented hardly any problem for language transfer – it was eminently translatable. There is nothing that would seem alien to the reader; of course I mean only the Indian reader for whom the value system, ...

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