Guest Blog: Supriya Kar

Problems of Translation — II


This post is a continuation of
Ms. Supriya Kar’s previous post. She is doing her PhD in literary translation. Her research focuses on autobiographical writings of women from the Eastern Indian state of Orissa. Here, she discusses various problems of translation, particularly in the context of her work.

Read Part 1 here

Songs in Oriya:
The songs and chants in Oriya are marked by lyricism and onomatopoeic qualities and have therefore been left untranslated. These give a feel of the sound of Oriya. The examples include:
Hare Krushna Hare krushna, krushna krushna krushna hare hare
Hare Rama hare Rama, Rama Rama hare hare.

Chala kodala, chala kodala, patia bandhe, chhande chhande, bharide mati laal…

Kesharkunja sheja re…
Duti kara dhari hari boile kishori…
Are nauri, e ghata re nabandhe taree…
Hari haraye namo, Krishna Jadabaya namo, jadabaya, madhabaya, keshabaya namo.

Forms of Address: Chandrabhaga, Chanda, Ashoka, Abhada, Gangapani, Baula and Chandi: Terms of endearment and affection, which are used in the excerpts, have been left untranslated. These terms signify deep friendship based on love and trust. These are also given social and cultural acceptance through specific rites.

Use of Titles: Panchasakha, Bhaktakabi, Mahatma, Utkalmani: Eminent public figures acquired these titles, and came to be known through these rather than their proper names. Through repeated use these became part of their names. Although they denoted certain qualities, they were actually used as proper names. So these have been kept as such and glossed where required.

Names of Institutions: Kanyashram, Shrama Sansthan Anusthan, Dhanamani Matru Mangala Kendra, Kumari Sansad, Bakula Bana Vidyalay. Although these names denote the nature and function of these institutions they are also used as proper names. So they are kept as such and glossed wherever necessary.

Kinship Terms: Chhota Maa, Menki-nani, Andhari-Maa, Durga apa, Subhabou-bhauja, Mahi’s mother, Sushila-bhauja, Nayan-bou, Rama-bhauja, Pila-mother, Jugala Saante, Nala-da, Bhika-na, Bhula-uncle, Puri-uncle.
While translating kinship terms used in India, one has to tread cautiously between the twin extremes of ‘domestication’ and ‘defamiliarisation’. Sometimes, the English equivalents have been used and, at others, the kinship terms have been retained. As all the excerpts translated here are autobiographical writings, the kinship terms are used more often than in any other fictional genre. Retaining all the terms would have made the text loaded with unfamiliar and opaque expressions. So, at times, the relationships have been explained in the text itself, sometimes, the context makes the meaning of the terms obvious.

Conversational Style:
Attempts have been made to maintain the speech rhythms of Oriya in the translation of all the excerpts. In the translation of the excerpt from Sumani Jhodia’s autobiography, punctuation marks have not been used to retain the immediacy of her words since hers is an oral testimony.

Problems in the Source Text:
There are examples of writings in the excerpts translated here which do not really make any sense, but their meaning can only be guessed from the context. In such cases, these have been tackled in a pragmatic way.
One may mention here, Arthur Lindsay’s observation that the prime duty of translators is communicating information lucidly. He goes on to submit:

As translators, our objective is to enable the reader to understand the subject matter we are translating. Hence simplicity of language is obviously the most important weapon in our armoury. Further, I submit that the more complex the subject, the greater is the need for plain English. Even if the author is incapable of simplicity in the source text, in the target language this duty devolves upon us, since we are those who must moderate between author and reader.

In translating these excerpts, strategies such as deletion, expansion, and addition have been adopted to achieve lucidity as far as practicable.

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