Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore.
National Book Trust India, New Delhi.
Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.

In This Issue


  The Dialectics of Human Intellection  and the Semiotics of Translation:A Comparative Reading of Rabindranath Tagore’s Kar¸akunt¢sambada in Bangla and English
Anuradha Ghosh
  Translation Norms and  the Translator’s Agency
He Xianbian
  Training Legal Translators through the Internet: Promises and Pitfalls
Esther  Monzó
  Translating the Translated: Interrogating the Post-Colonial Condition
K. Sripad Bhat
  Translating Cultural Encounters: Hali’s Muqaddama
Tanweer  Alam Mazhari
  Translations into Kannada in the 10th Century: Comments on Precolonial Translation
  Translating Calcutta/Kolkata
Jayita Sengupta
  Shakespeare Re-Configured: Hemchandra Bandyopadhyay’s Bangla Transcreations
Tapati Gupta
   British Imperialism and the Politics of Translation: Texts From, And From Beyond, the Empire
Nabanita Sengupta
  Locating and Collating Translated Short Stories of Rabindranath Tagore
Swati Datta
  Translating Suno Shefali: A Dual Empowerment
B.T. Seetha

  War, Women and Translational Empowerment in Seela Subhadra Devi’s Poetry


  The Problematics of Getting Across Modern Marathi Literature into Nonindian Languages
Sunil Sawant
  On Translating Dalit Texts with Special Reference to Bali Adugal

Notes from The Classroom

Teaching Documentation for Translation Studies:
The Key Discipline of Information Literacy
Dora Sales-Salvador

Language, Literature and Culture: Through the Prism of Translation

Vanamala Viswanatha

Book Reviews

Writing Outside the Nation by Azade Seyhan
Chitra Harshavardhan

Teaching and Researching Translation By Basil Hatim

Meena T Pillai

Translation Reviews

Ravishankar Rao

Short Notices


War, Women and Translational Empowerment
in Seela Subhadra Devi's Poetry

P. Jayalakshmi is Associate Professor teaching literatures in English at Osmania University, Nizam College, Hyderabad. Her area of specialization is Indian Poetry in English and Nineteenth Century British Poetry. She has translated poems and short stories from Telugu into English. In collaboration with Dr.Bhargavi Rao she has translated and published Seela Subhadra Devi's full-length poem Yudham Oka Gunde Kotha into English as War a Heart's Ravage in March 2003. Besides literature her interests include Indian philosophy and music. Her postal address is 5-9-34, NLR Residency, Basheer Bagh, Hyderabad-500029, India


Translation in recent times has come to be a means to enrich language and literature of a culture. What are the problems of translation faced by translators in arriving at an acceptable translation? Can a translated text hope to attain a status equivalent to the Source Text remaining within its confines? If so, what is the modality to be adopted? The paper looks at some of these concerns as the translators undertook to translate Seela Subhadra Devi's full-length poem in Telugu called Yudham Oka Gunde Kotha into English as War, a Heart's Ravage. Should treatment of the post-September-Eleven politico-religious scene, in the hands of a woman-writer necessarily call for a gendered response? Can she transcend the limits of her consciousness? Can a marginalized woman as a mother hope to widen her scope for discovering her potential, facilitating a discourse of alternative power? Some of these questions are intrinsic to woman's subjectivity, but having a woman as writer and translator is also an effort equally reinforcing to the issue of empowerment. What are the challenges encountered in the process of translation when the poem in the Source Language is rich in its allusion to native Telugu culture and literature and when the translation has for its objective Symbolic stability of meaning? Besides attempting to answer the above questions, the paper seeks to trace the various stages involved in the translational process as well by analyzing at length an illustrative passage from the translated text.


Dharma and Adharma of Translation

At the beginning of the Kurukshetra war, Vyasa came to his blind son Dhritarashtra offering him sight to see the war. Dhritarashtra pleaded not to give him sight, if it were only to see his sons die. Instead, he would be satisfied to hear through someone who could relate vividly the details of the war. Vyasa, offering a boon, replied:

"So be it. This Sanjaya will give you a true report of the entire war. I will grant him inner sight. He will be like the Rishis who can see all … Sanjaya will see everything that happens in the war. He will know even the thoughts of all … whether spoken, or whether it is just in the mind of a man, Sanjaya will know it all".

(Subramanyam 2001: 479 & 480)

A translator shares with Sanjaya the anxiety to represent what she has visualized into articulate speech, and at the same time remain within the limited confines of the Source Text and not to overread or underread what she sees or reads and comprehends. Although outside the field of creativity (in this instance, poetic creativity), her inner sight should privilege her to see beneath surface meanings as well as discern the creative process behind the ST. She is also within its understanding and she internalises the field within herself. She is urged to relate exactly without debate or question the just and unjust actions of men. Any transgression would invite reproach with a shriek of adharma (= nonrighteous or immoral behaviour) from the blind Dhritarashtra - or the reader - who has no access to the Kurukshetra war or the ST, hence is blind. She has, therefore, to watch her tread with care. Despite this limit to (her) visual sight, and her distance from the field of action, the translated text emerges, since the ability of Dhritarashtra (the reader) to see with the mind's eye is boundless. The sights to which access is denied, those he is obliged to see through his mind. Sanjaya, the translator, with his extended and enlarged vision is out to project the unfolding action: Maharaj, hearken to all that I can see (Bhattacharya 1992: 281-282).

War and the Empowerment of Women

Among the many issues frequently debated with regard to women's writing, one is the question of gendering of translations. In the politics of translation, an issue such as this, not surprisingly, invites an equally gendered response. If a woman writer were to create space for herself within and outside the boundaries of her SL, which amounts to giving her writing a public presence and legitimacy, finding a translator from the mainstream is as challenging as seeking recognition within the same. Hence, more often than not, women translate in order to undertake the task of carving out space for women writers outside the mainstream, which has also been male-stream, (SL 2) as well as gain access for them to global readership. In outreaching global attention, the long narrative poem War, a Heart's Ravage of Seela Subhadra Devi, written in Telugu, is a confluence of three voices - all of women. Viewing the post-September-Eleven politico-religious situation in the world contextually in the midst of Afghan war, the poet being a woman, records her response as a mother, as

Scene of man-made mammoth structures' collapse
Lingers still afresh on eye's iris.

(Jayalakshmi and Rao 2003: 31)

Secondly, the poem celebrates the centrality of woman as subject, the main narrative voice - a woman-conscious mother. In the contemporaneous context of the poem, the poet's response is highly meditative on the theme of woman as a mother, a silent sufferer in war since times past. Thirdly, the translation is a collaborative effort of two women, an effect reinforcing the issue of empowerment - the central concern of the Seminar.

The theme of women's empowerment, however unsettling to the mainstream writing and readership, obviates itself in literature, to begin with, as a gender-genre-stereotypic divide in women's writing. Except for prose writing, novels and lyric poetry, genres like epic, humour, travelogue, drama, criticism, satire etc. seem to be traditionally outside the gender-genre space of women's writing. By choosing to write a long narrative poem War, a Heart's Ravage (fifty-page long in the original), Seela Subhadra Devi transgresses into a hitherto male-specific genre of writing long poems. It is relevant, in this regard, to recall words of Nabaneeta Dev Sen who avers with confidence that such gender-genre-stereotypic distinction doesn't hold any longer (Subhadra Devi 2003: 67). True to these words, Seela Subhadra Devi happens to be the first woman writer in Telugu literature to write a long poem. However, her being the first in Indian vernacular literatures as well needs to be established. The poem although not characterized by epical features, has in it a metaphorical, symbolic, metaphysical and cosmic epic struggle between innocent and evil forces, besides shading off into folklore and fable as a search for meaning at the human level - concerns all epical in nature. Such a transgression into a new genre, indeed, is empowerment in itself.


Copyright © CIIL and The Author 2005