Author's Diction~Vipin Behari Goyal: Fooled by Translation

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fooled by Translation


                      Fooled By Translation

waiting for godot, samuel beckett

Had India not remained slave to British for many centuries, our perception of English as a language would have been different. The words like Pre-Colonial  and Post-Colonial Literature would not have segmented our rich heritage of Sanskrit and Hindi Literature. One can dare say that amazing books have been written in Hindi and regional languages in India, which are at par, if not superior to books written in English. India has not come out of the spell cast by “Queen’s Language” which British thought was their monopoly.

However, USA also remained a colony but the English was already a native language of America, which is acknowledged as American English. While the Indian English is considered as crude copy of standard British English and has failed to develop an identity like American English.

The fact that despite critiques accused “Of man and mice” a masterpiece by John Steinbeck for vulgarity, racism and slang, the author was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature and American Literary Association classified the book as “Most challenged book of 21st Century”.

The Nobel Laureate of USA, Saul Bellow, Canadian born American author was brought up in Chicago and English was his native language. His books viz., The dangling man, Herzog, Seize the day, Revelstein are written in American English which has its own set of rules for  spelling, grammar, punctuation and style which are sometimes in contradiction to standard British English.

Most of the popular books that we read were not written in English originally. For example Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel García Márquez, Paulo Coelho wrote in Spanish, Fyodor Dostoyevsky , Anton Chekhov Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Gogol, Maxim Gorky, Boris Pasternak, Vladimir Nabokov, in Russian,  Haruki Murakami Yasunari Kawabata in Japanese, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Victor Hugo  Gustave Flaubert, Simone de Beauvoir in French.

These are only a few examples of popular authors. Sometime you may come across a bad translation and then it would be difficult to complete that book. Jacques Derrida says

“What must be translated of that which is translatable can only be the untranslatable. ”

Original always lacks its translation. It depends upon the translator if it fills up the gap in the way a story was created and perception of the reader, or widens it. Samuel Beckett who was a bilingual author who wrote in English as well as French said that the translator’s failure is, thus, an ‘interesting failure’.

Most of Indian knows good English but they are afraid of speaking and writing something because they think that some would mock at them, who has nothing substantial to say but has little better knowledge of grammar or punctuation.

The proper outlet for the creativity of such persons is translation of rich Hindi and regional language literature into English, if they have nothing to say anything of their own.

English is the lingua Franca of the world. If what is said is understood as it should be, the purpose of the language is served.

It is high time we make our own Chicago manual (may be Mumbai Manual) . The Mumbai has more English speaking people than anywhere else in India, and that too without hesitation of getting a tag.
Views of Gabriel Garcia Marquez on translator

"I have great admiration for translators except for the ones who use footnotes. They are always trying to explain to the reader something which the author probably did not mean; since it’s there, the reader has to put up with it. Translating is a very difficult job, not at all rewarding, and very badly paid. A good translation is always a re-creation in another language. That’s why I have such great admiration for Gregory Rabassa. My books have been translated into twenty-one languages and Rabassa is the only translator who has never asked for something to be clarified so he can put a footnote in. I think that my work has been completely re-created in English. There are parts of the book which are very difficult to follow literally. The impression one gets is that the translator read the book and then rewrote it from his recollections. That’s why I have such admiration for translators. They are intuitive rather than intellectual. Not only is what publishers pay them completely miserable, but they don’t see their work as literary creation. There are some books I would have liked to translate into Spanish, but they would have involved as much work as writing my own books and I wouldn’t have made enough money to eat."

                                                           ~Vipin Behari Goyal


  1. Studying the language in this manner shall be a relatively quick and extremely convenient approach to be taught a second language. There are numerous on-line faculties and learning facilities that provide accelerated applications in French Human translation, as well as many different languages.

  2. True. But translating literature needs more expertise than verbatim translation.


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