Translators Boosting India’s Writers

Posted on: 11/01/2010

After years of uninterest, a new flurry of finely wrought English translations from India’s vernacular languages promises to bring the country’s literary map fully into focus.

For a network whose English strain is diverse, highly developed, and globally circulated, Indian literature is surprisingly short on high-quality translations of works from its other languages into English. The number of memorable translations of fiction from the basket of Indian languages – Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Oriya, Gujarati, Kannada, to name only a few – into English could be counted on one’s fingers.
This is unfortunate, for no single branch of India’s literature can possibly encompass the representation of diverse social realities that a flourishing national literature requires. As the poet and critic Vinay Dharwadker wrote recently in Indian Literature (the little-read and poorly distributed – though increasingly well-designed and well-produced – bimonthly journal of literature published by the Indian government’s academy of letters, the Sahitya Akademi): “Indian-English literature by itself is inadequate to represent who we are to the rest of the world. Only a broad representation of the full range of Indian literatures, translated into a world language such as English, can do what is needed.”

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