Treat to Life: A Review of Treats in Translation

Amita Ray
Title: “Treats in Translation”

Author:  Amita Roy

Page: 142.

ISBN: 978-93-89615-45-6

Edition: (2020). Paperback.

Published by Authors Press. New Delhi. India.

Price: ₹ 295.00 / $ 15.00

Reviewed by:  Sutanuka Ghosh Roy.

      Salman Rushdie says, “we are all born across the world whether you are a man or a woman, so we are all translators, anyone who speaks translates”. In this context, Milton comes to mind, who dreamt vivid dreams and his Paradise Lost he says, was in translations of those dreams that he had early in the morning written and transliterated by one of his disciples. The noble laureate of the Caribbean Derek Walcott talks about his English as always unappropriated by human beings because any language is the language of imagination no one can own a language-- any one of us who can translate or are translators whether we are translating from or translating to is just as important. Derrida writes, “in the limits to which it is possible, or at least appears possible, translation practices the difference between signified and signifier. But if this difference is never pure, no more so is translation, and for the notion of translation we would have to substitute a notion of transformation of one language by another, of one text by another” (Criticism, Spring 1995, Vol XXXVII, No 2, p 281-308).

      Translation is still a perpetually under-recognized genre. Whereas European literature easily accommodates German, French, British, Russian, or Czech authors among others in its corpus most of the Indian languages are known to the readers of that language but unfortunately remain little known to the readers outside of that language. Even though we stay in the same country we fail to recognize each other’s language. So the main aim should be to see how Indian literature is perceived by foreign readers as well as to the readers of other Indian languages so that it can be appreciated throughout the world and across India. Translation has a key role to play in reducing the gap in understanding different languages. Sanjukta  Dasgupta writes, “ translation is a process of disseminating cultures. By selecting seven canonical fictional narratives written by five superstars of the Bengali literary world, the translator Amita Ray has provided a rich fare for readers  which is indeed a rare treat. These well-known and lesser-known stories by the luminaries of Bengali literature Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, Rabindranath Tagore, Saratchandra Chattopadhyay, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay and Jibananda Das translated by Amita Ray will surely be appreciated by researchers of literary studies, cultural studies, and translation studies”.

Sutanuka Ghosh Roy

     In the foreword, to the book, Bharati Ray writes, “This is a volume of translations of a few gems of Bengali literature into English. Translation from one language to another presents a crucial issue—that of the difficulty in conveying the fundamental nuances of the original language; yet translations are necessary. They give an idea of other people’s cultures, enrich the thoughts of the readers, and help mutual understanding of the culture of different people”. Amita Ray, former Associate professor of a college is an academic of varied interests, a translator, a short story writer, and a poet. Her translation of Abinindranth Tagore’s Khirer Putul into English was published in 2018. In the present volume Treats in Translation, she has translated seven stories of five luminaries of Bengali literature. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay  (1820-1891) is known as the Father of Bengali prose. He developed a new style which became the standard of academia. It was he who brought in romantic influence from the West and gave a new leash to the Bengali language. Ray has selected two of his novellas, “Radharani” and “Jugalangurio”, both the novellas are a fine play of the eternal human emotion—love. Ray has captured the subtle nuance of Bankim with ease.

       She next turns to Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and gives us his story “Kankal”. This short story of Tagore is a bit different from his other stories like “Postmaster” or “Kabuliwala”. “Kankal” is a love story in the guise of a ghost story. It is riveting, lyrical, and scary.

      “The moonlight night was beautiful; breeze from the South blew to drive away the weariness of the world into a slumber. The whole garden was ecstatic with the fragrance of bel and juin flowers”.

      “When the melody of the flute gradually subsided, when the moonlight faded to darkness, the trees, sky and together with it my mundane home, the whole world slowly started receding like an illusion around me, I closed my eyes and smiled”(19-20).

         Ray then goes on to translate Saratchandra Chattopadhyay (1876-1938). Saratchandra is a widely popular writer of Bengal and he has been translated into many languages. “Mahesh” is a moving story of a poor peasant Gafur’s love for his bull Mahesh and agony at losing him. “In the darkness of dead night, he set out holding on to his daughter’s hand. He had no relatives in this village, so there was no one to bid goodbye. Crossing the courtyard he stopped abruptly by that acacia tree by the road and all of a sudden started crying bitterly. Face upturned towards the star-studded black sky he said “Allah! Punish me as much as you can, but my Mahesh has died of thirst. No one has even left a small turf for him to graze on. Do not forgive those who haven’t allowed him to feed on the grass you have given, the water you have blessed us with to quench our thirst.”(116)

The story revolves around Bengali social life, the pain, the angst, the poverty. The translator has tried to connect words with emotions keeping in mind a multi-lingual frame. It is only through translations that the present and future generations will be able to appreciate and engage with authors. The next author that Ray takes up is Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay (1894-1950). “Upasarpa” speaks of a man’s love for the image of Lord Krishna.

       “Ah! That should remain unsaid. Tell me, have you died? Come with me, I am alone in Puri. I am not feeling good”.

       After that Sir, I go to Puri frequently and stay there two or three months at a stretch.

      Now I spoke after a long time.

       “How is that idol?”

         “The same as before. He is absolutely crazy. He won’t let me go anywhere. How is it possible? Don’t I have my own work Sir, what do you say?”(29).

The story gives an idea of the culture of Bengal, enrich the thoughts of the readers, and help mutual understanding of the culture of different people across the country as well as the globe. The aim is to reach readers hoping that readers of the second language—readers of the translation—will perceive the translated text, ardently and creatively, in a method that parallels and matches the aesthetic experience of its first readers. Good translations approach that resolution.

     Jibannada Das (1899-1954) in “Somnath and Sreemati” gives us a glimpse of his philosophy of life. He is a popular poet in Bengali literature. In all the translated stories Ray has developed a keen sense of style, honing and expanding our critical awareness of the emotional impact of words, the social aura that surrounds them, the setting and mood that informs them, the atmosphere they create. Ray, the translator has been able to capture vividly and retain the interest of the readers.

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