Every day is International Translation Day at 'We Are All Translators' but Happy International Translation Day to you all. Let's consider the cases for and against literary anachronisms (and archaisms) in translation, shall we?
Please share your favorite translated work that isn't as well-known as it should be and deserves more attention. And what small step could you perhaps take to bring more attention to it? Also, read recommendations from other readers, writers, and translators about their favorite translated works that are still relatively unknown.
I get asked often about how I manage all my reading and writing. Honestly, even with all the reading and writing I do for the workshops I teach, Desi Books, book-reviewing, work-in-progress translation, and work-in-progress novel, I'm not always able to fill my personal tank. This practice of 'The 100' is mostly about filling our personal tanks and cultivating a more disciplined and sustainable practice of reading, writing, and translating. And, as we all do, I've sometimes fallen off the wagon but I always get back on.
I had other plans for this week's topic. But the news of this morning about the attack on the author, Salman Rushdie, has left me a bit shaken. No, I don't know him and I've never met him. But I've probably read every book, every essay, and every interview of his. And all his tweets from 2017-onward when I started following him there. It's curious how a writer can have so much impact on your reading and writing life. I wouldn't even say he was among my top three favorite writers (although, among desi or South Asian writers, he's definitely at the top.)
Every translator's origin story is unique and personal and involves a great deal of happenstance and serendipity (as Mark Polizzotti has written). And, as I've often said before, translations in South Asia are not the same as translations in the western world. We're still trying to discover and recover our literary treasures and traditions from various languages because they'd been marginalized by more dominant cultures.
I've talked elsewhere before about how I (and many other translators) see literary translation as activism. This is because we see our work as not simply bringing stories from one culture or language to another. We see it as a way to preserve, elevate, and celebrate those cultures and languages as well. Lately, I've also been thinking about how literary translation is also an act of self-care. Hear me out.
As much of my literary translation published so far has involved works from the classic Gujarati canon, I get asked sometimes about some of the problematic social mores of earlier times. My response is that I generally avoid translating works that feel problematic to me. But, yes, we have to consider such works as representative of their time when gender, class, caste dynamics were different. In that sense, they're more like sociocultural and historical artifacts to me. That said, I also remind people that things aren't all good now. Even when we might have improved some of our sociopolitical attitudes and behaviors, our language hasn't always caught up.