Translation Studies: Exploring Identities
is a collection of essays about translating literary works from one language to another, in particular, translating from Bengali into English and vice versa. The essays highlight the difficulties involving the work of translation. The idea of this book, edited by Professor Fakrul Alam and Professor Ahmed Ahsanuzzaman, came from a conference on translation studies organised by Khulna University in 2014.
The essays mainly deal with the process of translation by which a piece of writing is rendered from one language to another, and the problems that arise in the course of translation. The book begins with the essay by Niaz Zaman, eminent writer and translator, who argues in her essay that “a good translation should retain cultural differences.”
One of the main challenges translators face is that they often have to decide to what extent words and phrases from Bengali should remain in the target language. According to Zaman, the translated work should be in readable English, but the cultural background of the writing should not disappear in the translation. This causes a dilemma, which sometimes means that the dual nature of this feat is very difficult, which may sometimes lead to incompetence.
Khademul Islam, in his essay, talks about how cultural differences lead to different syntactical structures and how this difference makes the act of translation really challenging. He argues that challenges are many and “there are no ready-made and set solutions to these difficulties of translating from Bengali to English. Language is both too intractable and too fluid to lend itself to easy answers … ''
Fakrul Alam, one of our illustrious translators, examines different translations of a Tagore song to reach the conclusion that “no translation of lyrics can ever be like the original, and “we will be inevitably disappointed if we seek to find in a translated poem an exact equivalence of the original” and that “no attempt to translate a text can be seen as definitive and all attempts at translation of a classical text must ultimately be seen as provisional.”
Ahmed Ahsanuzzaman picks up Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House
and shows how Shambhu Mitra, in his translation, has given it a new life in line with Walter Benjamin’s theory of afterlife of the text. “ ... Mitra’s attempt to take part in the afterlife of the Ibsen classic meant that he would not ‘[strive] for likeness to the original’; rather, he would ensure that through his work ‘the original undergoes a change,’” he says.
Abdullah Al Mamun, too, expounds Walter Benjamin’s thoughts on translation. Benjamin, an exceptional translation theorist, talks about what attracts translators to a work, and how important translating a text is in order to ensure that the text lives on. That is, if it is translated from a declining language into a language that most people of that time know, then the text will live on. For instance, Tagore’s poems were translated into English in 1912, which enabled readers in Europe and America to enjoy them.
Monika Gaenssbauer, Sabiha Huq, Mian Md Naushaad Kabir and Rumana Rahman, among others, have discussed different aspects of translation including translation as a performative act, translation as a pedagogic tool and translation as decolonisation.
There are a total of 18 essays in the book and all of them, considered as a whole, will serve as an essential reference point not only for those who are interested in theories of translation but also for those who are practising translators. This is a must read especially for those who translate from Bengali into English.