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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Achena: Gem of a Bangla translation

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Liton Chakraborty Mithun unfolds the depth of the work

Translation is a tricky job. It is not simply converting a text from one language to another word for word. It is more about conveying messages and ideas across language barriers. Translation of a literary text entails even more rigorous attention on the part of the translator, especially on nuances, contexts, equivalents of phrases and idioms of both the sources and target languages.

On top of that, quirks of both the languages should be handled smartly while translating. Tusar Talukder, a young writer and translator seems to have translated Albert Camus' The Outsider in a copybook fashion typical of literary translation. His Bengali translation of the book is an example of his sweeping linguistic mastery and creative ingenuity. The translation piece came out in 2017 edition of Ekushey Book Fair.

Before going into the discussion of the merits of Tusar Talukdar's work, let me give you a glimpse into the famous literary piece The Outsider (also known as The Stranger in the USA). Written originally in French by the French author and philosopher Albert Camus in 1942, The Outsider is an exemplar of an absurdist text. It tells the story of a man named Meursault who ends up being a social pariah and is consequently convicted and executed by the court of justice mainly because of his independent mindset and latching onto truth.

This awe-inspiring novel has achieved a huge acclaim from best of the literary critics world over since its publication in 1942. Tusar Talukder's Bengali translation titled Achena is based on Joseph Laredo's English version of Sartre's magnum opus.

The upside of Tusar's version is the way he retains the fluidity of language of the source text. He also keeps his target audience in mind and employs an idiomatic Bangladeshi Bangla to make it as much original-looking as possible. I must appreciate the fact that Tusar has spiced up his prose-text with Bangladeshi slangs and gives it a local flavor.

He also manages to avoid high-sounding bookish diction for the most part. On top of that, he renders his piece in chiseled prose that scintillates with a poet's touch. Moreover, the highlight of Achena is that the reader will hardly get stuck anywhere during the reading process since the content is smartly gotten across. However, the book seems to be slightly marred by a few spelling errors and unfashionable expressions. In my opinion, the author should brush up the book in further editions with a special focus on language and spellings.

However, translation has not established itself as an industry. A handful few translating centers have been set up in recent times and they are doing some brilliant jobs. Given the fact that a big percentage of population in Bangladesh is youth, it will certainly constitute a viable book-market if given proper incentives.

Quality translation of global literature into Bengali may be a step forward in acquainting the youth with the wealth of ideas and concepts from across the national boundaries. Moreover, it will certainly give our national literature a massive boost. In the same fashion, the translation of Bengali literary masterpieces into English and other foreign languages will help Bangladesh put itself on global literary map with pride and glory. It is no wonder that Bangladesh has much to offer to the world literature, and translation is the key in this respect.

Late National Professor Kabir Chowdhury was a pioneering figure in the translating sector of the country. Prominent translators and academic heavyweights such as Serajul Islam Choudhury, Syed Manzoorul Islam, Fakrul Alam, Kaiser Haq, Abdus Selim, Mohammad Nurul Huda, Kajal Bandyopadhyay, Abdullah Rafique-um-Munir Chowdhury, Azfar Hussain, Razu Alauddin, Alam Khorshed have been creditably contributing to the sector. Young writers like Rifat Munim, Tusar Talukder, Sabidin Ibrahim, Shazed Ul Hoque Khan Abir have joined the fold and it is, of course, a healthy sign.  More can be done yet.

To wrap up the write-up, Tusar Talukder is academic timber. His literary and academic articles come out regularly in journals and newspapers from both home and abroad. This translation piece named Achena bears the stamp of his idiosyncratic merit and creativity. It is expected of him to come up with further writings and contribute notably to our literature. Finally, I reckon that Achena merits a handsome readership and due critical recognition given the dearth of quality translation works in Bangladesh.


The reviewer studied English literature at Dhaka University. He can be reached at lcmithun12@gmail.com

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