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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