Corps de l’article
India is typically a multilingual country and translation always plays an extremely important role. Compared with translations between Indian languages (intra-Indian), a much older activity, the English translation from Indian languages is a more recent one. Rita Kothari’s Translating India explores aspects such as production, reception and marketability of the latter in India, which is pioneering work. It is the most impressive book on translation in India I have ever read.
The book comprises six chapters and two appendixes. The first chapter ‘Recalling: English Translation in Colonial India’ shows the origin of English translation in India which goes back to the late eighteenth and early nineteen centuries. It offers a thematic overview of English translation done by the East India officers and/or white Orientalists over that period, as well as the contradictions between English translators and the Indian scholars. The translation carried out by the British was for the purpose of knowing the mysterious Orient. But from the nineteenth century onwards, Indian intellectuals began to intervene and interrupt the colonizer’s version of India because they were looking for self-expression. The second chapter ‘Two World Theory’ maps a reconfigured relationship in post-independence India between some Indian languages and the English language, locating the context for accommodating translation. We see in this period both the “strengthening of a regional literary and linguistic tradition” and “the rise of English as an Indian language”(p.32). Chapters ‘Within Academia’ and ‘Outside the Discipline Machine’ discuss the issue of social-cultural viability of English translation in India. The former deals with a fresh area of inquiry, especially for teachers and academics, and explores various translation theories in and outside India. Although translation scholars stress usefulness of translation as a pedagogical tool, much work still needs doing. Many questions have to be answered such as “How are translation courses to be framed and taught in a multilingual classroom?” and “Do translations of Indian literatures in English require more indigenous translation theory and would a more ‘liberal’ and ‘Indian’ (if you will) translation also enlarge Indian literature in English by including adaptations and transcreations?”(p.95). The latter deals with interconnections between translation activity and parallel developments in related print and visual media, and tries to spot the dynamics and prominence of English language production, especially the changing political economy of postcolonial India. ‘Publishers’ Perspective’ and ‘The Case of Gujarati’ rely mainly on the interviews with publishers and editors in the former and Gujarati teachers and intellectuals in the latter. The former examines the role of the publishing industry, its perception of the translation activity and the ways in which it influences the body of Indian Literature in English Translation (ILET), and the latter focuses on the main shift from the general to the particular and taps both processes when examining the production of a specific ‘regional’ literature in English translation. The two appendixes are the questionnaire that was handed out or mailed to select publishers before the actual interview and the full transcripts of the interviews with publishers such as Sahitya Akademi, Macmillan, Katha, Penguin India, Oxford University Press, Rupa-HarperCollins, Kali for Women, Orient Longman, and Stree. The book stresses the production of the body referred as ILET, and its six chapters examine various aspects from which it has received consensus and study the interconnections.
I’m very surprised by the unprecedented rise of English translation in India because English is the most recent language in India. As a substantial and distinct body, the existence of ILET is itself a recent phenomenon because for a long time it has been subsumed into the body of Indian Writing in English. Translating into English only goes back to the nineteen century when translations in English were few. The status of English is ambiguous and controversial after Indian’s independence from British in 1947. 1965 saw the Sahitya Akademi award on P. K. Narayan, the Indian’s first gesture of patronage toward Creative Writing in English. Now there are several translation awards in India and the courses on translation studies and Indian literature in English translation are taught in about twenty universities. So it really appeals to us when we see the unexpected rise of English translation from marginality to pervasion. Therefore, the context around this shift is an impressive topic to explore, and it is worth the effort.
I’m deeply impressed by Indian translators’ strife to carry out a resistant and/or assimilative dialogue with the West through translation even today. They find it is impossible for them to stop the pervasive trend of English, they just go with the time, i.e., trying to resist and/or assimilate it, and successfully made English one of its languages. Now the English in India becomes Indo-English that is a proper medium to disseminate Indian culture throughout the world. Their approach demonstrates not only the Indian’s real independence from Britain but also the real awareness of Indians’ cultural identity. They are aware of the necessity of keeping their identity in the era of globalization, and of the world’s unity allowing diversities, thus making our world colourful.
This book demonstrates Rita Kothari’s vigorous scientific approach. Its substantial content and convincing arguments are based on not only written documents but also oral interviews. Rita explores the theme of the book from the contexts in both India and the world, and tries to combine the translation theories in India (Sujit Mukherjee & G. N. Devy’s para-literary forces of translation theory) and outside India (Jean Delisle & Judith Woodsworth’s historical approach and Itamar Zohar & Gideon Toury’s polysystem view of translation) with the realities in India and to deal with her theme through an unusually multi-disciplinary approach (such as historical, disciplinary, political, economic and sociological), thus obtaining the convincing results.
Rita Kothari is the suitable person to write this book because she possesses mixed abilities (a college teacher of English, researcher of a translation studies centre, and translation practitioner) and she knows the nature of translation. Her versatility tells us that man and woman are equal in nearly every field, especially in translation studies.
In sum, the book under review is extremely useful for translation researchers and practitioners, teachers and students, and those interested in translation or translation studies. It is a great contribution to the world translation studies.