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Overdoing Transcreation

Sara Rai

Translated by Nandini Nopany  and P. Lal
Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1980, pp. vi 191, Rs. 60.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 3 November/December 1980

Translation, like criticism, must be perpetually re-undertaken. Art, prover­bially, is long, so that translation, in so far as it is an art, should also be timeless, persistently reappearing as an inevitable response to stimuli felt by succeeding generations. For every generation hankers for translation in the grand sense—bold reinterpretation attempted and fruitful· interconnections between one language and another made by a mind thoroughly acquainted with both. In this new collection of Premchand stories, the translators, P. Lal and Nandini Nopany, seem to be attempting something between a re-interpretation and a translation—a 'transcreation', as they are fond of calling it. This method of undertaking the business of translation has obvious advantages—apart from the fact that the text is likely to maintain the verve and flow of the original, it also allows the translator to transmit to the reader something of his own creative ex­perience of the book. For reading is also, a creative activity, though not as much as writing a passage. Thus 'transcrea­tion' is bound to be more dynamic than translation done merely as a kind of stylistic exercise. Yet one must not overlook the fact that this method leaves one exposed to the dangerous pitfalls of subjectivity. Certain nuances of what the translator thought the writer meant would unavoid­ably enter the translation and though by itself, this does not necessarily detract from the value of the work, it would certainly not be what the author original­ly intended. In fact, the picture gets even more complicated because no one really knows what the author intended, so all one can do is indulge in a lot of confus­ing speculation. Nandini Nopany and P. Lal have successfully fallen into this trap by the use of certainly unusual terms like ‘doom-darkness’ (‘The Shround’), ‘sense-intoxication’ (‘The Chess Players’), and ‘life-sacrifice’ (‘Jail’), with their equally elaborate explanations, whether Premchand intended to convey any such meaning is anybody's guess. Along with unusual interpretations of certain words, some new terms too seem to have been coined by the translators. 'Horripilated’ (‘The Song of the Heart’, among other stories) is perhaps used to mean some kind of horrified exclamation, but since the usage is unusual, the mean­ing does not quite get across. In fact, not only does the meaning remain vague, at certain points in the book, words have been used which positively distort the sense of the ...

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