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How to avoid getting lost in translation

Norwegian literature is seldom translated into Hindi. Slowly, this is changing. But how do you avoid getting lost in translation?

Astri Ghosh is a Norwegian actor, writer and translator with Indian roots. Her work is rare: she translates Norwegian literature into Hindi, as well as other Indian languages. Ghosh attended this year’s literary festival in Hyderabad. There she addressed the challenging aspects of translating literature without losing some of its particularities.

A good example is the renowned Norwegian author Henrik Ibsen. His plays were considered scandalous and groundbreaking when they came in 19th century Norway. Ibsen portrayed Norwegian women in a way that never was done before in A Doll’s House, and made satire of the Norwegian self-aspect in Peer Gynt. How can these cultural and time specific details be translated into a different language with a different cultural history?

Ms. Ghosh talked both about her techniques and the more principal questions involved in translation. For example, let’s say that the particularities could be sufficiently translated into another language. The remaining question is, should the translator try to make the translation process invisible for the reader? Another way to go about it would rather be trying to preserve the foreignness of a text. These are some of the questions Astri Ghosh has battled with her long experience in the field. 

Norwegian authors such as Ibsen, Lars Saabye Christensen and Per Pettersen have all been translated by Ms. Ghosh. In Hyderabad, the audience was fortunate enough to hear Ms. Ghosh recite some of her translations of Rui Zink and Rabindranath Tagore, along with paying tribute to the late actor Tom Alter.

Ghosh is currently working on the project Ibsen in Translation, where she has translated plays by Ibsen into Hindi. Among Ghosh’ Ibsen publications are Hindi translations of An Enemy of the People, A Doll’s House, and Pillars of Society. She is in the process of translating even more of Ibsen’s greatest plays.

Hyderabad Literary festival is a three day long festival of literature, arts and culture that draws over a hundred and fifty authors, artistes, academics, and publishers from India and abroad each year. It was held in Hyderabad between 26th and 28th January.