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Translating Women: A Threepronged Epistemological Paradigm Shift

Edited by N Kamala
Zubaan, Delhi, 2009, pp 164, Rs. 395.00


Iam a translator because I am a bilingual . . . I am a translator because I am a woman,’ wrote Canadian,SusanneDeLotbiniereHarwood in her 1991 work, The Body Bilingual: Translation as a Rewriting in the Feminine. The book under review here, N. Kamala’s endeavour to compile the thoughts of Indian women translators/translation scholars on their vocation, may be called an inquiry into the profound concern DeLotbiniere-Harwood voices. The questions that arise from this quest are not easily answered: Is it true that a woman translator is doubly invisible/marginalized in ‘her twin identity as woman and as translator’? (Vanamala Viswanathan p. 16) How far will a feminist translation alert an androcentric society of the female presence in its language? Or, will such an intervention in the reading of the original text be viewed as preposterous? Despite these unanswered questions, the attempt to problematize translation of/by women in Translating Women: Indian Interventions (TW) is commendable; Kamala’s editorial intervention is an epistemological break in feminist, language and translation studies, rather than a collection of essays. For the same reason, the ethos of the book needs to be considered with reference toKamala’s ‘Introduction’ before individually studying the essays she presents. Kamala directly places under critical examination many an assumption about the task of translation, and queries about the epistemological location of translation in the Indian literary system. Can it claim any authenticity, however faithful it aspires to be, if ‘original’ writing itself is the translation of the author’s thoughts? And, if this is the suspect site of the so-called faithful, where stands the work of a woman translator who tries to flaunt her presence and insists that her intervention in the reading of the ‘original’ text must ensure the presence of women in language and society? In order to foreground the latter mode of translation as the subject of her study, Kamala refers to the Canadian feminist writings from Quebec that questionnormative patriarchal language with their neologisms, wordplay, and retrieval of forgotten words to describe women’s experiences. She mentions how a new approach had to be devised to translate these writings, the methods of which could be extended to the translation of other women’s writings, too, thus giving rise to what is now termed ‘feminist translation’. The editor does well in surveying a few anthologies in English of women’s writings, all of which have in common the insistence ...

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