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June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.  Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       June 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.   Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       
Issue:June' 2017


Translation 'part of engagement'

Paul St. Pierre , Professor of Translation at Montreal University , has been focusing on the translations of Oriya works . Last Spring Humra Quraishi met him in New Delhi , as he was on his back home , after spending weeks in Orissa . It was a relaxed, long conversation where she asked him not just about his passion to translate but also about his frequent travels to Orissa. Excerpts from an interview with Professor St.Pierre .

Paul St. Pierre Q: How difficult was it for a 'foreigner' to be in Orissa for weeks at a stretch in the context of these translations ?
A - There was never any particular difficulty for me to living in Odisha for extended periods of time – usually two months, or more. Except for the heat, when I stayed into March! Food was never a problem – in fact, in Bhubaneswar I was able to more easily find excellent food to my liking – Odia and South Indian dishes – than I could at home in Canada.
My preference is to eat vegetarian, and this is much easier to do in India than in Canada. I am largely self-sufficient and have quite often lived in foreign countries (five years in France, while doing my Ph.D., but also teaching twice in Guangzhou, China, for several months each time, teaching a couple of months in Kandy, Sri Lanka, etc.). I had travelled to India twice before I began to come regularly to Bhubaneswar, beginning in 1993 and yearly since.

Q: Little is known of the literary masterpieces of Orissa. Why?

A - The question regarding what is known of Odia literary works outside Odisha touches on two elements at least: 1. Relations of power between Indian languages, and 2. The availability and acceptability of translations from Odia into other Indian languages (including English)…With the regards the first element, there are historically certain 'major' Indian languages as well as certain 'minor' Indian languages. I should note that my use of 'major' and 'minor' does not constitute a value judgement, but is rather an indication of the weight accorded these languages (in the European context, for example, French and English would be considered 'major' languages, whereas 'Swedish' and Dutch' would be considered minor languages.) The literature of the first – one can think of Bengali, in particular – receives extensive distribution throughout India and even abroad, tending to overshadow the literature of other Indian languages. The second – the 'minor' languages, in which I would include Odia – are not as extensively translated, distributed, read or discussed. The historical relations between these languages – such as between Odia and Bengali – has tended to lead to a certain discounting of the importance of the second, the 'minor' languages, and this continues to this day.

Q: Comment on perception of Odia literature in the West.

A- Odia literature is not widely available in Western languages, other than the occasional translation of a short story into French, for example. A few English translations have been published abroad, and certain figure in the curricula in universities. Thus, Paraja by Gopinath Mohanty (translated by Bikram Das) was published in England; Six Acres and a Third by Phakirmohan Senapati (the English translation of Chha Mana Atha Guntha) was published in the United States, as was a collection of short stories by Kishore Charan Das, in a translation by Phyllis Granoff. A few other examples could be cited, but the number of translations from Odia published outside India is rather small.

Q: When and how did you take to translating the works of J.P. Das?

A- My first collaborative translation of a work by J.P. was of a short story, "The Interlude." It was translated with Kamalakanta and Leelawati Mohapatra, a husband and wife team of translators with whom I have frequently worked. The translation was published in Manushi, in 2000. I next collaborated directly with J.P. on translations of his poems for a volume published as Lovelines, in 2001. Following this, with Kamalakanta and Leelawati Mohapatra, I worked on a play by J.P., Sundardas, published in 2002. In 2004, Dear Jester and Other Stories, translated in collaboration with Rabindra K. Swain, was published by Rupa. J.P. had a direct role in this translation.

Q: Do you translate other Indian or foreign language works besides Oriya works?

A - I occasionally translate from French into English, but most of my translation work consists in working collaboratively, with native speakers of Odia, on translations from Odia into English.

Q- Does your own writing and academic assignments get neglected with so much focus on translations ?

A - My field of specialization as an academic is 'Translation Studies', a discipline that is highly developed in Canada due to the need to translate between the official languages of the country. I came to this area through my Ph.D. thesis, on the question of the use of two languages (French and English) by Samuel Beckett.
My research has looked at translation from a theoretical point of view – in Europe and in Odisha (questions such as the relation of translation to colonialism, of translation to globalization) – but the practice of translation has also been a part of my engagement with the field of Translation Studies.
Thus, in addition to my collaboration on the translation of various works, I am also compiling a bibliography of translations into Odia, in all fields, beginning with the first published text in Odia, in 1807, and ending in 2004. This bibliography will contain more than 6000 titles, and will be a useful tool with which to examine the evolution of Odia society during the period.