Ajit Baral: Yes, it did. As Jhumpa Lahiri says, translating a novel ‘is the most intense form of reading and rereading there is’. It became apparent that I had overlooked a few weaknesses in the text, which I flagged and you tried to fix them. A translator should fix problems, if any, in the original text. More so in texts that haven’t gone through rigorous editing. But Anurag Basnet, who vetted and edited the translation, a champion of fidelity to the text, suggested that I remain faithful to the original.
Now that we are at it, how did you feel when you read the novel in English translation?
Chuden Kabimbo: When you first sent me a draft of the translation to read, I found that my own story had a different taste. The story was the same, but the tone was different. Maybe this is where the power of translation lies.
I cannot read Bangla, so I don’t know how that is. But when I read the Hindi translation, I found its tone was also different. It had its own rhythm as well. And I realised that Nepali idioms sound pleasant in Hindi only after reading the translation.
Translation is a bridge through which not only our language and literature but also our society and culture cross over to different places and milieu. With Faatsung being translated into three languages, I feel our geographical imagination is also transported to a new society. You can feel the snow falling when reading a Russian novel.
Faatsung‘s Hindi translator Namrata Chauturvedi keeps saying that every language is endowed with the power of its geographical imagination and that geography plays a vital role in forming memories and experiences, which we tap on to write literature.
When translating Faatsung, local references often threw her off. Having grown up in Uttar Pradesh, she hadn’t seen a landslide or terrace farming in the hills, which is very different from the plains. It was therefore important for her to describe the geography in the novel. A translator has to imagine it precisely, she says, otherwise, the writing risks losing its poetic strength.
You are also from the mountains, Ajit, but the story of the Gorkhaland movement is not your story, and you had to translate it for an audience that was culturally and geographically removed. How challenging was that?