ST. STEPHEN’S CENTRE FOR TRANSLATION STUDIES
Translation as a cultural activity is gaining in academic respect, literary credibility and cultural significance. This being natural, given the globalizing world in which we live. Translation provides cultural bridges as very little else can.
Even today, however, the domain of translation is marked by an asymmetry, thanks to the global dominance of the English language. Translations from English to other languages, especially Afro-Asian languages, far outnumber translation from these languages to English. There is a need to remedy this imbalance.
It is being recognized increasingly that translation is a creative literary genre. This notwithstanding, the economics of translation makes it unviable for translators to embrace it as a full-time vocation. This regrettable situation calls for, for as long as it prevails, the creation of catalytic instruments for promoting this culturally liberating and integrating genre.
To attain true global acceptability the movement of cultural goods needs to match the movement of commercial goods. This is not yet the case. English is the foremost, often the only, medium for global recognition. It is also the principal transit route to other languages. Far too many authors of immense merit languish for long in vernacular languages. This being due to want of exposure to audiences beyond their linguistic and territorial domains. This is also a loss for the global community that fails to be enriched by the cultural goods produced in the diverse literary and linguistic traditions of the world.
Furthermore India is ideally suited to play a pivotal role in promoting excellence in translation both as a literary activity and as an academic enterprise. Linguistic and cultural diversity has been endemic to this country for centuries. Even though not enough has been done in a formal way to facilitate their interaction and cross-pollination, translation of key texts from various Indian languages has happened for a very long time both into English and into these consanguine languages. There is now a growing political and governmental awareness to promote the art of translation in the Indian context. All leading publishers in India now attach unprecedented importance to translations. The media too provides greater visibility to translated works than has been the case hitherto. Much more, however, remains to be done in this regard.
Given this context, it is highly opportune to set up a Centre for Excellence in Translation.
Most translators work in isolation. These people could benefit much from opportunities to come together and encourage as well as learn from each other. While there are literary festivals, translation as a literary art fares as footnote to these exercises of prestige.
The Centre undertakes:
- To serve as a point of creative convergence for translators nationally and globally and thereby to promote excellence and cross-cultural interface in translation.
- To play a catalytic role in securing for translation and the practitioners of this creative art the literary recognition and material reward they deserve.
- To promote targeted research in the theory and practice of translation as well as to train future translators.
- To identify appropriate texts for translation from various regional and global languages and to facilitate their translation into each other at a high level of literary, linguistic, historical and cultural accuracy and finesse.
- To organize symposia and festivals centering on the art of translation as well as trends in the theory and practice of translation.
- Advocacy roles in respect of translation with the government and the media by way of publishing or causing to be published reviews of translated works, liaising with publishing firms, cultural organizations and government departments.
The centre has been holding skill building sessions and has been credited with a book, the English translation of Sarah Joseph’s Malayalam novel, Aathi, by Rev. Dr. Valson Thampu (Gift in Green published by Harper Collins) in the first three years.
In the academic year 2014-2015, the Centre launched ALPHABET, series of interaction with global writers with the English advisory board of the Sahitya Akademi. Russian-born-American poet and the editor of the poetry journal, Fulcrum, Philip Nikolayev was the inaugural event on 12 January 2015. Poet, translator and the convener of the English advisory board, Prof. K. Satchidanandan introduced the series, as an outreach programme of the Academy. The second event in the series had Ari Sitas, the South African poet who authored many important poetry collections, including Slave Trades. The event was held on February 16, 2015
The Centre of Translation Studies started a project in collaboration with the Department of English of Queen’s University, Belfast. Floated under the supervision of Prof. Mark Burnett Thornton from Renaissance Studies of Queen’s University, noted Shakespeare scholar who have authored books including Shakeapeare and World Cinema and Masters and Servants in Early Modern England and N.P. Ashley, Assistant Professor of English at St. Stephen’s College, the project, “Shakespeare as an Indian Site” attempts to archive the Indian cinematic, theatrical adaptations, translations in Indian languages, regional cultural practices and social events in various Indian languages across for more than 150 years and create a web archive. Applications were invited from the current students in St. Stephen’s College for academic internship in the project. In the first phase, the task was to collect material such as photos, videos, films, reports, articles, personal narratives, translations and literary/graphic adaptations for different age groups in different languages from various parts of India. 11 students have been collecting materials in Bengali, Malayalam, Hindi, Urdu, and Kashmiri for three months now as academic interns in the project.
The centre collaborated with the National Book Trust of India on a national seminar on “Translation and the Idea of India” at the World Book Fair- 2015, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi on 17 February 2015. Inaugurated by the then Chairman of the NBT, P. Sethumadhavan, the seminar had papers by noted writers, editors and publishers such as K. Satchidanandan, Mitra Phookan, Mini Krishnan, Nirmalkanti Bhattacharjee, Mamta Sagar, Prema Jayakumar, Kannan Sundaram and Sridhar Gowda. Along with 59 registered students from St. Stephen’s College, 39 students from other Delhi University colleges such as Lady Sriram College, Maitrayi College, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College, Ramanujan College and Hansraj College participated in the seminar.
The centre has held a linguistic survey of the entire college in an attempt to understand the linguistic survey of the college, a report on which will be published soon. A Malayalam play by Samkutty Pattomkary, “Bheemaparvam”, is in the last stage of getting translated into English by a team of six in the centre- the play is planned to be translated into Sanskrit as well.