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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