Monday, August 20, 2007

A translator at 16

From the Indian Telegraph, Sunday 19th August:

Tagore wrote Shey (He) for his granddaughter Pupe. It is a world of delightful and bizarre adventures where the poet and the protagonist, shey, weave a web of stories for the nine-year-old Pupe.

Enter a 10-year-old translator, who wants to participate in this story-telling. The result after six years is He, a translation published by Penguin in its Modern Classics series.
Translator Aparna Choudhuri, all of 16 today, is the daughter of Sukanta and Supriya Choudhuri, well-known translators of Tagore and leading academics.

It is only natural that Aparna has to defend her work from any interference, correction or revision from her parents. “My parents definitely read my translation, but they never criticised it objectively for they didn’t want to spoil my pleasure in doing the translation,” says Aparna, who began translating Shey during one of those long lazy summer afternoons during a holiday.
She plans to continue to translate Bengali texts, but admits that she has begun with a “rather difficult text”. “It is precisely because it is difficult, because it is such a riddle, that I wanted to translate it. The things that attracted me to Shey as a reader also prompted me to translate it,” says Aparna.

Her work has a longish introduction by Sankha Ghosh, who contextualises the book and the translation, preparing the reader for the text. The translation has won accolades. At the launch of the book at Oxford Bookstore on Monday, poet Nirendranath Chakrabarty said: “The translation is as good as the original. It has kept the style of Tagore’s writing absolutely intact.”
Commending the translator for having achieved this at such a tender age, he, however, cautioned her: “Don’t be a Max Beerbohm, who published his complete works when he was only 24.”

Beerbohm, English wit, parodist and illustrator, had published The Works of Max Beerbohm in 1896.

I am full of admiration :-) I started my translation career at the age of 24 with a book on the history of philosophical trends by a Soviet academic, and it was a challenge in a way despite the fact that I had a degree in English by then, was working in a publishing house and philosophy was one of my specializations.

It helps to have parents who are into similar activities. Having been exposed at a very tender age to a number of very different languages, and growing up in a family where every member was poly-lingual, also helped me to translate "by ear", unlike some who have to do it "by the book".

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