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Indian language literature goes to Frankfurt Book Fair

Monday October 10, 2011 02:59:08 PM, Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS

New Delhi: In a first showcase of Indian indigenous writing, a literary panorama featuring works by over 30 language writers will be on display at the Frankfurt Book Fair in a pilot exhibition for readers and publishers from Europe, the US and other countries.

The literary panorama, initiated by the union culture ministry under the 'ILA: Indian Literature Abroad' project, will be held Oct 12-16.

The project aims to carry the diversity of contemporary regional Indian literature from the grassroots to the world through source translation, which involves creation of original work directly to foreign languages in an attempt to remove dependence on English translation, a top ILA official said.

Initially, the focus of translation is on six UNESCO languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

"The project requires patience and nurturing. It is (in the) long term. We want to understand the kind of Indian language books the international market likes and the market dynamics. We are looking at source language translations - like from Tamil to French," writer Namita Gokhale, the member secretary of Indian Literature Abroad project, told IANS.

"Translating a regional literary work first into English and then into a foreign language results in loss of textual matter," she said.

"Different cultures appreciate different kind of literature," she added.

Gokhale heads the delegation carrying the Indian literary showcase to Frankfurt Tuesday.

A discussion, 'Romancing the Languages: Indian Literature's Journeys' will debate on the future of Indian regional language writing and its global positioning Oct 13.

Gokhale, along with writers Urvashi Butalia, Michi Strausfeld and Prayag Shukla, will address the session.

Gokhale said "with 22 official national languages, 122 regional languages, four classical languages (Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu), 1,726 mother tongues and countless dialects, India can boast of a unique literary heritage".

While around 45 percent of the titles published in India are in English, it is time for the rest of the languages to reach an international audience, she said.

Regional language writing is not accessible to the rest of the world because of lack of quality translations and focused promotion, Gokhale said.

The literature has been selected under four broad categories - poems, short stories, novels and plays, a culture ministry official said.

An advisory committee is overseeing the project. The panel has noted author U.R. Ananthamurthy as chairperson and Gokhale as member-secretary.

The members include chairperson of Lalit Kala Akademi Ashok Vajpeyi, poet and Nobel nominee K. Satchidanandan, feminist writer and editor Mini Krishnan and publisher Urvashi Butalia.

"Our books should be known all over the world. The legacy of Indian language (bhasa) writing is not only rich but also has new material about people in the villages. The different facets of Indian literature have to be translated and put on the global map," noted Kannada writer and scholar U.R. Ananthamurthy told IANS from Bangalore.

Ananathamurthy, whose novels "Samskara (Samskara: A Rite for a Dead Man)" and "Bharatipura", are part of the ILA's Frankfurt panorama, said "ILA was working on several translation commissions and translation workshops to put together the second lot of titles".

Indian language books can be translated to foreign languages either by source language translation or through creative translation, Ananthamurthy said.

"Creative translation involves English as an intermediary language. First, the book is translated to English and then creatively re-written into a foreign language by an language expert.

"Translated masterpieces have to be re-translated every 10 years to keep up with the changing nature of global languages," the Kannada writer said.

The maiden ILA showcase includes language icons like Rabindranath Tagore, Rahi Masoom Raza, Ismat Chughtai, Mahashweta Devi, Maitreyi Devi, Sunil Gangopadhay, O.V. Vijayan, Dharamvir Bharati, Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Ambai (C.S. Lakshmi) and K. Satchidanandan.

"In 2006, India introduced a translation subsidy to pay foreign translators at international rates when it took a selection of books to Frankfurt Book Fair where it was the guest country. The introduction of the subsidy eventually led to the project," said publisher Urvashi Butalia.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at





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