Voyage of Words – Translators Set Sail

Mini Krishnan, a well-known publisher, drove the session with Kannan Sundaram, a publisher in Tamil and MS Asha Devi and Subhashree Krishnaswamy, prominent literary translators to emphasize the dynamics and challenges of the literary translation, an art that often goes unacknowledged. The translators discussed theoretical and practical aspects of their translation experience, and critical statements on the extent, quality, consistency, and impact of the translator’s work. The publishers shared their views on choosing the right books to publish.

The session began with Mini’s question to Subhashree regarding the difficulties in facing the cultural differences between the language that the story is written and the language that the story is translated. Subhasree’s book “The Tamil Story” contains 88 Tamil stories that are set across various time periods from 1913 to 2000. She talked about the selection process that involved reading over 10000 stories and finalizing the stories that aren’t conventional and providing a deep insight of the Tamil culture. She observed the importance of choosing the one story that shows the author in a very good light and the dedication that she puts to make sure that the translation conveys the same message as the original story.

Subhashree, while travelling down her memory lane, provided an example of how certain words put the interpreter in a tight spot. The term “Shanthi Mugoortham” (finding an auspicious time to consummate the marriage) was kept as it is, in the book, as there is no suitable word to express it.

Mini appreciated the craft of a translator as she moved forward to Asha to talk about the personal nature that plays a role in translation from native tongue to English. Asha Devi, who runs columns with a scent of feminism, admitted that her feminist nature positively intervened and dictated her works. Her selection process involves picking the genres that cover gender equality and the importance of women. The complications to successfully translate on par with the original were exciting to her, she recollected. She added that she never endorsed her own opinions while translating. If the perception of the author is completely different from the perception of the translator, it is ethically correct to not do it, she concluded.

Final question from Mini is to Kannan about the publisher’s point of view in translation. Kannan has a passion for bringing the other countries’ literature to Tamil. His desire is to publish the stories from the countries that are lesser known to the world, like Uruguay and Iceland. He has published the books of the Nobel prize winners and his first choice is always modern classics. He echoed his thoughts on selecting the books that interest him personally and the books that make money.

As a finale to the session, Subhasree read humorous dialogues from a story that was translated by her – Milk account by SVV, which put a huge smile on the faces of the audience. To quote Asha Devi, “Translation is where the reader becomes the writer”.

About the Author – Lavanyaa is a fiction writer, published author, wannabe dancer, and voracious reader. To support all these fun activities, she works in the software industry. She currently writes for Bookstalkist.

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