Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 4 (July-Sept 1983) p. 69.


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On Ramanujan/s Translation

Shama Futehally

N THE presendliterary Situation in Indiana good translation has 'cultural' benefits extra to those which a successful work of literature normally has. It is, therefore, worth looking closely at the usual kind of success and failure which is achieved by our translators, and attempting to analyse it in some degree.

A large number of translations fail, of course, for obvious reasons:

lack of adequate knowledge of one or the other languages on the part of .the translator; lack of care, sensitivity or humility in regard to the original work. Such translations will continue to proliferate, and nothing can be done about them except to hope that the original works will find their true translators somewhere. It is better worth thinking about translations which have none of these obvious flaws indeed, where the translators are first-rate scholars whose motto is "handle with care' - but which, nevertheless, do not quite succeed. Such translators would include Daniel Ingalls in his translation of Vidyakara's Treasury called Sanskrit Poetry (Harvard University Press), Barbara Stoler Miller in her translation of Bilhana (Columbia University Press), Deben Bhattacharya in his translations of Vidyapati (UNESCO). All these are translations of 'classics', and it is clear that the task of making such literature relevant to the present-day reader is harder than the transmitting of contemporary writing. As translators of classical literature these scholars ^are, in some sense, path-breakers. Nonetheless they do not provide the kind of translation which -leaves readers astounded and joyful it only leaves" them honourably reading away.

Journal of Arts and Ideas 69


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