If you want to see a new country, travel; but if you wish to understand it, read its literature. And that’s where (good!) translators come into play!
Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world,” and the poet Rumi said, “Speak a new language so that the world will be a new world.” Every language holds its own universe of history, culture, and psychographics, and so the literature produced in every language can widen the horizons of its readers.
This is why translators are so important. They make the literature of different countries and regions accessible to readers, and in doing so, they make the world an expanded, more connected place. Here are five translators doing fantastic work with regional South Asian literature:
1. Indrani Majumdar
Indrani Majumdar is a prolific translator of Bengali fiction, especially the work of Satyajit Ray. She has translated Satyajit Ray’s “Professor Shonku Stories,” “Another Dozen Stories,” and “The Mystery of Munroe Island: and Other Stories.” She has done the critical work of making Ray’s children’s writing accessible to non-Bengali readers. In 2011-12, she was given a grant by the India Foundation for the Arts to collect, digitize, annotate and archive gramophone records of Bengali plays performed from 1900 to 1930.
2. Jenny Bhatt
Jenny Bhatt is an Indian American writer, literary translator, and literary critic working primarily with the Gujarati Language. She is the award-shortlisted literary translator of “Ratno Dholi: The Best Stories of Dhumketu” (available in the US as “The Shehnai Virtuoso”). Her translation has been celebrated for its “well-informed choices for pivotal words [that] open new possibilities of re-readings for a Gujarati reader.” She is also the founder of Desi Books, a global multimedia platform for South Asian literature.
3. Jayasree Kalathil
Jayasree Kalathil is an award-winning writer, an award-winning translator, and a mental health researcher and activist. Her work primarily pertains to mental health. She has translated “Diary of a Malayali Madman,” written by Malayali writer N. Prabhakaran, which was also longlisted for the Mathrubhumi Book of the Year Award; and “Meesha,” a controversial novel written by S. Hareesh, which was later published under the title, “Moustache” in 2020, and “Adam” by the same author.
4. Jayakumari Devika
Jayakumari Devika is a historian, feminist, social critic, and academician from Kerala working in Malayalam and English. Her early work involved researching “… emergence of modern binary gender as a language of describing society and social change in the early twentieth century in Kerala,” and her work provides an essential perspective on feminism in Kerala. Her notable translations include ex-prostitute and sex-worker activist Nalini Jameela’s autobiography; and the short stories of K. R. Meera and Sarah Joseph.
5. Shanta Gokhale
Shanta Gokhale is an Indian writer, translator, journalist, and theater critic working in the Marathi and English language. As a translator, she has worked on the autobiography of veteran actress Durga Khote and several plays by leading Marathi playwrights such as Vijay Tendulkar and Satish Alekar. She has also written in Marathi and translated her first book, “Rita Welinkar,” from Marathi to English in 1995.