Uneasy Alliances: Visvasahitya, Comparative Literature and National Literature in India

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Sayantan Dasgupta


My paper concentrates on translation in the context of India, a space that is essentially multilingual. In a country that has around 700 languages, translation has a particular importance. I focus on how hierarchies and injustices can be challenged and dismantled through translation in a context like this. 

My paper focuses particularly on the hierarchies between the 22 ‘scheduled’ languages and the other 700 – odd languages that co – habit the Indian linguistic national imaginary. What role can translation play in suturing the rifts between such language communities, and in remedying the discrepancy between these commu­nities? In trying to answer this question, I shall look closely at the translational acti­vities of the Centre for Translation of Indian Literatures (CENTIL), Jadavpur Uni­versity, which focuses primarily on indigenous and marginalized languages. What is the potential of the collaborative workshop mode that CENTIL uses with respect to such translation projects? Does it hold any special promise to expand the national imaginary to make it more inclusive, and to enrich the literary/oral culture of ‘marginalised’ language traditions, and to contribute to a more inclusive model of heritage as envisaged in the UN Sustainable Development Goals? These are questions I shall try to negotiate with. 

I would also take up the case of Bangla Dalit literature, a relatively recent corpus, which is curiously finding recognition and respectability through a spurt of English translations aimed not only at the rest of India but also at a global audience even as the original body of works continues to be published by niche publications, and largely ignored by ‘mainstream’ Bangla publication houses.

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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Translation and Reparation