Satharoopa – A collection of hundred poems in two languages
by Ashok Khanaa and Dr Lanka S R Prasad.
Srijanalokam and Writers Corner, Warangal, 2016
258 pages, price Rs200/-
Translating poetry written in English into Telugu is no new thing. But the work of two poets, one writing in English and another translating into Telugu and bringing out the work in one volume is not an everyday affair. Ashok Khanna, the writer in English lives in Delhi and the other, a busy doctor living in far flung Telangana, producing this work of a hundred poems in a single volume is laudable.
The titles of the two works are All at the Same Moment in English and Annee ade kshanam lo in Telugu. LSR writes in his prelude that what induced him to render Khanna’s poetry into the mother tongue of the Telugus is the Khanna’s unassuming simplicity, brevity and subtlety. Very ordinary every day, simple and easy words in English are used to express the niceties, complexities and depth of feeling. LSR did his job in rendering these into another language with consummate felicity.
Though the translation skills cannot be displayed in this review the poems written in English can be presented here to make the readers have a feel of AK’s poems with brief comments.
At the same moment
I wished any where
To rain like clouds
On mountains to freeze like snow
To melt and wish falls to fall below
To go to merge with the oceans
To rise as vapours
Yet again to rain like clouds
It was poetry
That caused all this
At the same moment
All at the same moment
(All at the same moment, p.12)
The poet’s wishes, desires, aspirations are in relation to poetry. Both the poet and the translator wanted it to be both the crown and peak of their effort. Translating poetry does not have any strict policy, theory or method. The translation stays till another effort and another translation comes up. This is accepted as a service to the readers who could read the poem in their own tongue. The first word in the translation could be antaa in the place of anneee. But thus is a matter of opinion which is not a critical comment.
The speaker in the poem ‘An Individual’ wants to be unique and the translator has kept this to his understanding of the lines:
I speak of
His experience of a moment
His strength. (p.14)
It is only a hard and fast rule that is violated to show that ‘weakness’ is rendered as a plural.
In the poem ‘Children at play’ are described playing very near a cremation ground. It is eerie and it is true that
Is it not the bubbly life
Deriding dreaded Death at its very abode. (p.18)
The rendering is as powerful as the original. This is what the translator aims at – to be near perfection, not the perfection in the original. Here is a very short but very telling and thought provoking poem just in four lines:
Two into two, of the life
Don’t make always four
Sometime they make eight
And at times only zero
There are some wondersome usages in the original poem. Why the life in the first line? And then in line three why Sometime and not the usual sometimes? The translator cannot question the poet’s liberties, whether they are poetic or not. The translator did not question, there is no way to know whether the poet wondered or not.
The translation is done well rendering zero as emptiness, shoonyam gaa. This book can be taken into the class room where the subtleties – differences and peculiarities In literary translation are taught to offer students examples for the benefit of immediate learning.’
There is a very fine poem titled ‘Butterflies and Beetles’ starting thus:
I don’t say
That the earlier times were better
When butterflies used to fear beetles
It goes on like this:
I don’t say either
That this chance in times is not good
Now that butterflies go challenging the beetles. (p.28)
The translation is very sweet where the metaphors are brought out excellently as butter flies and bees (not beetles), seetakoOka chilukaloo-tummedalu. There is lot of difference between the bee and the beetle. Bees are admirable while beetles are insects. Butterflies appeal to all and the sensitivity of the rendering is commendable.
The poems ‘Ruined Building’ and ‘Song of Today’ in this cllection need mention in this review.
On advice of an expert
Away from the new city of today
In an old destroyed Colony.
Purchased a plot of land.
For building a new house on it
At the time of excavation, it was discovered
That it’s moss covered broken walls
Were raised on solid foundations
In its basement, were hidden
Much wealth, diamonds, pearls!
The absence of the pronoun to suggest the speaker or protagonist may be considered the reason for economy of words. In the rendering there is no feeling of the absence of the mention of the speaker. In ‘I’ the speaker is clearly indicated.
Then in the poem “Song of Today’ there is the omission of the subject. This may be the form of expression of the poet. In Telugu rendering the speaker is clear the poetic ‘I’.
The poem ‘If You’ is rendered slightly differently. The title in the Telugu poem is ‘oka VeLa neevu’ indicate something like in case you don’t, not exactly if you. In the translated version there is more sentimentality.
At the end of the collection a poem, written as an act of affection and love by another poet in English, Manoranjan Das - is included. The poem was titled ‘Your Method”. This was rendered a Your Shaili, strictly speaking, meaning tone or style. Style is not method since it also indicates the uniqueness of expression.
Only a few cases of difficulties in literary translation can be mentioned in this brief book review. The Telugu readers remain beholden to the translator because he has made English poetry of a renowned poet in English available to them.