Module 4: Theories of translation
  Lecture 13: Indian Aesthetic Theories and Translation


Other Areas

Riti is basically the style of the text. Sharma defines it as “the stylistics working within the text – the phonetic and the syntactic limits within which the text enacts, performs” (3). Riti should not be confused with the western concept of rhetoric because rhetoric is a broad term that covers figures of thought also. Sharma is of the opinion that riti means “the ‘ways of saying' …or the attitude the writer has formed toward the experience he is narrating” (3). The translator's ear has to be tuned to this ‘sound of sense' (as Robert Frost puts it) and the way in which this transforms the structure and syntax of the text. If the translator cannot capture this effect, the translation fails. This act of translation also involves interpretation to some extent because s/he has to arrive at the correct nuance mostly by interpretation. Attempting to approximate the prose rhythm of the original is one way of capturing the riti of the original. Sharma gives the example of translating Hemingway and Faulkner respectively. Hemingway uses monosyllabic words to great effect; so when translating him into Hindi or Kannada it makes sense to use ‘desi' words or colloquial language. On the other hand, Faulkner with his heavy diction, can be translated using marga or literary language.

Alamkara is the use of poetic ornaments in a literary work, be it fiction or poetry. Most writers use images to express themselves and these should resonate with the translator. Sharma points out that sometimes there might be a dichotomy between the alamkaras and the ideology that is being discussed in the work. This could be done deliberately by the author. The example he gives is that of U. R. Ananthamurthy's Samskara, which was brilliantly translated by A. K. Ramanujan who was himself a poet. The alamkaras of the novel is at variance with the ideology of the protagonist, resulting in a tension that adds to the complexity of the novel. This is a conflict without resolution which can lead to deconstruction of the text itself. Only a sensitive translator can pick up the latent tensions in a novel or poem.

A poem by default would have an abundance of alamkaras which might be difficult to recapture. Hence there is the popular belief that poems are a problem for the translator – as Frost puts it, “poetry is what gets lost in translation”. The vast difference between the source and target languages also complicate the matter further. Just like riti, the translator has to exercise her/his discretion in selecting the right alamkara to express the author's viewpoint. This would be in consideration of the reader's culture rather than the author's language / culture.