The Fine Art of Translation

Ear­lier in July this year, I repro­duced a short essay I had writ­ten in Marathi back in 1993, along with my first attempt at trans­lat­ing it to Eng­lish. Here is my Eng­lish ver­sion, again (just in case you’re too lazy to click and read the ear­lier post :) Skip this if you’ve read it already )

The Sky had spent many days har­bor­ing its sor­rows within itself. There were many clouds over its usu­ally clear, light and cloud­less frame of mind, due to the weight of many days of conflict.

We often find a unique rep­re­sen­ta­tion of our emo­tions in many facets of nature. The pangs of despair and the ache result­ing from it had found sym­bolic rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the light­ning that ensued.

The sud­den, unex­pected, short-lived, but blind­ing light­ning was slash­ing against the Sky’s heart. The cruel, sav­age light­ning turned the help­less Sky into a wounded soul.

The Wind was con­vey­ing the state of this wounded Sky every­where; it was run­ning in all direc­tions, fran­ti­cally search­ing for help. But no one lis­tened. The flora and fauna on the Earth couldn’t look at this depressed state of the Sky, and wanted to help, but they were rooted to the Earth. They were not free to leave the con­fines of their Mother Earth. The trees were sway­ing lis­ten­ing to the story from the wind, trem­bling in vain attempts to reach out to the Sky, but they couldn’t move.

Notwith­stand­ing all this, the tor­ture of the light­ning con­tin­ued. The Sky’s pains and anguish grew. There were thun­der­storms. The Sky began to shud­der. After cross­ing its limit for grief, the Sky, already drawn to the point of tears, began cry­ing. Teardrops began to fall. As if it was pour­ing its heart out in cry­ing, rain began to fall.

The Earth, who had been wit­ness­ing all this silently, ran to the res­cue. The Earth’s soil emanated that unique fra­grance, reach­ing out to the Sky, offer­ing a shoul­der for it to cry. The Sky was out­pour­ing all its grief that it had held for a very long time, and kept rain­ing, seek­ing the warmth of the Earth. The essence of this embrace between Earth and Sky was sym­bol­ized by that unique fra­grance, where they met and caressed each other…

Now, my dear friend @Asuph who prac­tices the Fine Art of Imbal­ance, has gra­ciously trans­lated my orig­i­nal Marathi essay into Eng­lish and posted it in the com­ments of my orig­i­nal post. Here is his version:

The sky was worn down by the bag­gage it had car­ried for a long time. The con­flicts of those days had over­clouded its oth­er­wise clear, unclut­tered mind.

Many a times our emo­tions find uncanny par­al­lels in nature. The lash­ing pains and the despair­ing grief, pent up within for days and weeks, found their embod­i­ment in the light­ning. The pangs of grief, unan­tic­i­pated, acute, blind­ing, tore at its heart, left the hap­less sky bruised.

The wind spread the news of the plight of the sky in every which direc­tion, fran­ti­cally search­ing for help. But no one offered to help. Down on earth, the trees watched the sky help­lessly. The tales of the wind moved them, they shud­dered, and swayed. In vain, they tried to break free. But rooted too strong in their world, they could not break free — to run to the sky, and offer it some solace.

Unbe­com­ing, the light­ning con­tin­ued its tor­ture. The sky was now engulfed in waves of unbear­able pains. Encour­aged, the light­ning stepped up its cru­elty, roar­ing, and thun­der­ing.  The sky shud­dered, and then, when the pains crossed a point, tears escaped it. A trickle gave way to a down­pour, as the sky opened up.

The earth, which was the silent spec­ta­tor, now offered her sol­i­dar­ity. As she imbibed the first teardrops, the wet earth let out a unique scent. Aided by the wind, it reached the sky, a token of the earth’s com­pas­sion. It was as if the earth had put her arm around it. That touch was all the sky needed, to let go. As it cried its heart out, the down­pour lasted for a while, releas­ing all the pent up agony. Even when it finally stopped, the essence of their com­mu­nion lin­gered on through the scent of the wet earth.

How much smoother it reads! How nat­u­rally it flows! It is as if it were writ­ten like this for the first time. Are trans­la­tions best when done by oth­ers? Is an author too shack­led with the words he used in his orig­i­nal that he can’t let go of them when trans­lat­ing? I think there’s a cer­tain ele­ment of truth to this, what do you think?

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    You write very well.Your posts are always short and crisp.In recent times,i have notices a sud­den drop in intensity(sorry about that).Please rein­vent yourself.

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