Rabindranath Tagore is a legend. My mother, who knows Bangla well, has always maintained that the poet’s own English translations of his masterpiece, Gitanjali, feel clumsy and pale in comparison to the original text. Poet Gulzar talks about his translations into Hindi of two Tagore poetry collections for children.
To explain the meaning in a line is easy. You are not translating a word, it’s the meter and then shades of those words. A word has many shades and you have to choose the correct shade out of it. You won’t find that meaning in a dictionary.
Nakul Krishna reflects on the effect of reading Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series as a child:
I reckon that one way for the ex-colonial to be post-colonial is to stop letting colonialism be the only measure of our attention. The thing is not to gawp, in admiration or horror or awkwardness, at that history, but to find ways of putting it to use.
Krishna read Blyton across lines of gender as well as race and geography, and of course, history. He writes of visiting Britain later, taking all his insecurities with him, postcolonial conflicts included. He writes of finding the southeast coast where the Malory Towers books are set.
This Britain I could live with, only half-tamed, surrounded by a sea of greater antiquity than any empire.
I too read Blyton avidly as a child. I had my moment of disillusionment. I left her behind. Later, visiting England, I found myself connecting with places from Beatrix Potter and Jane Austen rather than Blyton. I think I put away the slight discomfort that Blyton still arouses in me. Still, Krishna’s essay reminded me of why I’d loved those books in the first place.
Recently a friend sent me this link: 5 Indian Authors that Your Child Must Read. “You’re on it,” she said.
Turns out I am indeed on that list–which was nice. Although it felt funny to see myself described as “a relatively new author.” Mind you, I suppose in comparison to Rudyard Kipling or Anant Pai, “relatively new” is just about right.
No problem, I’ll accept the validation!
The other day, I received an email from a child reader who wrote that her mom just gave her a copy of The Broken Tusk and she was enjoying the stories. Every writer has a book of the heart. This was my second book, edited by the wonderful Diantha Thorpe at a marvelous small press, Linnet Books, with a history of intelligent, interesting acquisitions–military history, literary reprints, and folk and traditional stories. Diantha taught me to write boldly, not to pull back when the going got tough. The message reminded me that this year, The Broken Tusk will be
10 20 years old. That’s right, 20! I can’t count, can I?
Just some of the fun stuff that happens when you’ve been at this business a while.