Archive for July, 2008

Hamburg University honours Dr Nishank

July 31, 2008

Health Minister of Uttarakhand and noted Hindi writer and poet Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” was honoured by Hamburg University of Germany for his commendable work in the field of literature as well as propagation of Ayurveda. The German translation of his story collection, Tum Aur Main was also released under the German title, Du und Ich, on this occasion. Dr Nishank was also honoured at a function in Berlin. English translation of his book was also released at a function held in Berlin.

The function at Hamburg was organised by the Afro-Asian Institute, University of Hamburg. After felicitating Dr Nishank, Professor Tapania Aarkaya of the University said Du und Ich and Nur Ein Wunsch were German translations of two fine Hindi books authored by Dr Nishank. She said Dr Nishank always wrote about human sensibilities and, therefore, attracted a good readership. Prof. Aarkaya stated that the other books written by Dr Nishank would also be translated into German language and the Hamburg University would help set up an International Hindi Research Centre in Uttarakhand. This would attract scholars from across the world to Uttarakhand for research. The Centre would serve as an institute not only for Hindi but also for several major world languages.

The English version of a collection of stories authored by Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” titled, the Crowd Bears Witness, was released by renowned Ayurvedic and Vedic scholar Dr David Frawley. The book is an English translation of his Hindi book, Bheed Sakshi Hai.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Frawley noted that literature and politics rarely mingled but Dr Nishank was an exception to the rule. Dr Nishank was a well-known author and poet too besides being a politician. He also reiterated that Dr Nishank had been awarded and honoured by three Presidents of India.


India is LBF focus for 2009

July 30, 2008

India is to be the Market Focus at the London Book Fair next year, while South Africa will take centre stage in 2010. The India Market Focus will take the theme “India Through Fresh Eyes”, and will include an examination of linguistic, economic and demographic issues, with visits from Indian writers and a publishing training programme for Indian publishers and printers.

A spokesperson for the Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) said: “India has a vibrant book publishing industry and the London Book Fair will provide a great opportunity to our publishers and also to old and emerging authors to showcase their latest titles and highlight progress made in India in the book publishing industry.”

In 2010, which will also be the year in which South Africa hosts the soccer World Cup, the theme of the South Africa Market Focus will be diversity, emphasising languages and non-English writers.

Dudley H Schroeder, executive director of the Publishers Association of South Africa, said: “At a time when the publishing industry in South Africa is experiencing real growth and development, we see this as another opportunity of showcasing our established and emerging authors, and the exciting range of literature of South Africa.”

Emma House, head of international development at the London Book Fair, said: “We are excited at the prospect of being able to focus on two such rich and diverse publishing industries.”

Great Temple of Somnath as Described by Muslim Historians

July 29, 2008

As part of Hinduism Today’s research in Indian history, Hindustan Press International has been exploring the eight-volume set “The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians” edited by Henry M. Elliot. This 19th century book contains translations of extracts from mostly Muslim chroniclers of the Muslim times in India. The following extract is from “Wonders of Things Created, and marvels of Things Existing” by Asaru-L Bilad, a 13th century Muslim geographer. It contains the following description of Somnath temple and its destruction:

Somnath: celebrated city of India, situated on the shore of the sea, and washed by its waves. Among the wonders of that place was the temple in which was placed the idol called Somnat. This idol was in the middle of the temple without anything to support it from below, or to suspend it from above. It was held in the highest honor among the Hindus, and whoever beheld it floating in the air was struck with amazement, whether he was a Musulman or an infidel. The Hindus used to go on pilgrimage to it whenever there was an eclipse of the moon, and would then assemble there to the number of more than a hundred thousand. They believed that the souls of men used to meet there after separation from the body, and that the idol used to incorporate them at its pleasure in other bodies, in accordance with their doctrine of transmigration.

“The ebb and flow of the tide was considered to be the worship paid to the idol by the sea. Everything of the most precious was brought there as offerings, and the temple was endowed with more than 10,000 villages. There is a river (the Ganges) which is held sacred, between which and Somnat the distance is 200 parasangs. They used to bring the water of this river to Somnat every day, and wash the temple with it. A thousand brahmans were employed in worshipping the idol and attending on the visitors, and 500 damsels sung and danced at the door–all these were maintained upon the endowments of the temple. The edifice was built upon fifty-six pillars of teak, covered with lead. The shrine of the idol was dark. hut was lighted by jeweled chandeliers of great value. Near it was a chain of gold weighing 200 mans. When a portion (watch) of the night closed, this chain used to be shaken like bells to rouse a fresh lot of brahmans to perform worship.

“When the Sultan Yaminu-d Daula Mahmud Bin Subuktigin  went to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnat, in the hope that the Hindus would then become Muhammadans. He arrived there in the middle of Zi-l k’ada, 416 A.H. (December, 1025 A.D.). The Indians made a desperate resistance. They would go weeping and crying for help into the temple, and then issue forth to battle and fight till all were killed. The number of the slain exceeded 50,000.

“The king looked upon the idol with wonder, and gave orders for the seizing of the spoil, and the appropriation of the treasures. There were many idols of gold and silver and vessels set with jewels, all of which had been sent there by the greatest personages in India. The value of the things found in the temples of the idols exceeded twenty thousand thousand dinars. (Elliot’s footnote: The enormous treasures found at Somnat have been a theme of wonder for all who have written on that conquest.)

“When the king asked his companions what they had to say about the marvel of the idol, and of its staying in the air without prop or support, several maintained that it was upheld by some hidden support. The king directed a person to go and feel all around and above and below it with a spear, which he did, but met with no obstacle. One of the attendants then stated his opinion that the canopy was made of loadstone, and the idol of iron, and that the ingenious builder had skillfully contrived that the magnet should not exercise a greater force on anyone side-hence the idol was suspended in the middle. Some coincided, others differed. Permission was obtained from the Sultan to remove some stones from the top of the canopy to settle the point. When two stones were removed from the summit the idol swerved on one side, when more were taken away it inclined still further, until at last it rested on the ground.”


Translation of a Tagore poem

July 28, 2008

બે નારી

કોઇ એક ક્ષણે

ઉત્પત્તિની, સમુદ્રમંથને

અતલનું શય્યાતલ છોડી નીસરી બે નારી.

એક હતી ઉર્વશી, સુન્દરી

વિશ્વ કામનાના રાજ્યની એ રાણી

સ્વર્ગની અપ્સરી

બીજી હતી લક્ષ્મી તે કલ્યાણી

વિશ્વજનની રૂપે જાણી

સ્વર્ગની ઈશ્વરી.

એક હતી તપોભંગ કરી

ઉચ્ચહાસ્ય અગ્નિરસે ફાગણનું સુધાપાત્ર ભરી

વસન્તના પુષ્પિતપ્રલાપમાં

રાગયુક્ત કેસૂડાના છાકમાં

નિદ્રાહીન યૌવનના ગાનમાં

પ્રાણ – મન લઇ જાય હરી.

બીજી હતી

(પ્રાણમન) પાછાં વાળે

આંસુઓના શિશિરસ્નાને, સ્નિગ્ધ વાસનાના બહાને

હેમન્તના સોને મઢ્યા સફળને પૂર્ણશાંત સ્થાને

પાછા વાળે

નિખિલના આશીર્વાદ સંગ

સ્થિર લાવણ્યનાં સ્મિતહાસ્ય મધુરઉમંગ.

વાળે ધીરે


પવિત્ર સંગમતીર્થે

અનંતની પૂજાના મન્દિરે.

– રવીન્દ્રનાથ ટાગોર

– અનુ. ચન્દ્રકાન્ત ટોપીવાળા

Read blogs/web sites in your own language!

July 27, 2008

Embed web site translator widgets on to your site or blog, and see that traffic grow

Want more Internet traffic on to your site or blog from other non-English speaking countries? Easy! Embed web site translator widgets on to your site or blog, and see that traffic grow!

One major challenge for any Web site or blog has been to attract traffic from all over the world. With most of the sites supporting English, it is quite difficult to get people of other nationalities to read what you have written. However, thanks to the Internet and Web 2.0, we now have something called widgets, which help Web sites and blogs overcome such challenges.

Web site and blog owners are now spoiled for choice!

You can now add the Mini Site Translator from Widgetbox! The languages supported by Google’s Mini Site Translator include French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic.

There’s yet another widget, called, the Ultimate Website Translator! Again, you can embed the widget on to your ste or blog from

The ultimate website translator allows automatic translation to: Indonesia, Dutch, Français, Greek, Deutsch, Italiano, Português, Russian, Español, Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Svenska, Malay, Ukrainian, Persian, Hebrew, Türkçe, Brazilian Portuguese, Hungarian, Icelandic, Latin American Spanish, Tagalog, Serbian, Slovenian, Latin, Welsh, Catalan, English, and of course, Simplified and Traditional Chinese!

There is also the Alta Vista Babel Fish translator, just in case!

So, no more worrying about how to attract non-English speaking readers to your site or blog. Simply add these tools and you should be able to reach out to a much wider audience!

Narnia speaks Hindi now

July 26, 2008

For those who are worrying about the recession, here’s a whole new (well, almost) sector opening up. The just set up National Translation Mission requires 8,000 translators, 2,000 copy editors and 2,000 evaluators to man it, with Rs 99 crore from the union government financing the job.

Not many are aware, of course. Anything that’s not in English barely makes news. In a country of a billion plus people, only about 10 million Indians use English as their first language. Yet an estimated 40-45% of the (again estimated) Rs 7,500 crore Indian publishing industry’s sales come from English publishing. Unending colonial hangover?

Yes, India has more people who know English than in its land of origin. Though most Indians are more comfortable in their mother tongues, our toffee-nosed English publishing sector, the only one really publicised by the media, is just waking up to this fact. But as Kannan, publisher of the Chennai-based Kalachuvadu group that translates books into Tamil, points out: “Authors are keen to see their work in many languages even when it does not mean much revenue. The international trend is marginal writings and Indian English publishing must turn to Indian languages to trace these expressions.”

CEO of Harper PM Sukumar reminisces, “We grew up on English and Hindi translations of Russian works, so translation is important if we want to read the richest literatures in the world.” He agrees with Kannan: “This is the right time to get into bhasha publishing because people want to read good writing, be it original writings or good translations.” Harper has just launched into translations, with a Hindi imprint of the seven Chronicles of Narnia volumes. On the card are Hindi versions of Paulo Coelho’s The Witch of Portobello, Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing, and VS Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas. Harper is also translating English, Spanish, Portuguese and other languages into Hindi.

“While Indian language newspapers have been doing well, may be the Indian language books market has not been tapped in a proper manner,” says Naved Akber, Penguin Indian Languages section head. Penguin, India’s leading English publisher, which launched its language programme in 2005, is now doing translations from English into bhasha languages and vice versa. Languages like Malayalam and Bangla have high literary rates and hence large publishing markets, including the translation market. “The Malayalam book market has been performing well since 1960s,” points out Krishna Kumar of the State Institute of Languages, Kerala (SIL). Since SIL was established to encourage the production of higher level academic books in Malayalam in 1968, Kumar says all the major Malayalam publishers have come out with academic, literary or popular translations.

(Source: Financial Express)

Treasure in ruins

July 25, 2008

The National Library at Kolkata houses over 24, 00,000 books with more than 6,00,000 in Indian languages alone, apart from divisions in the foreign languages category.

The National Library situated at the Belvedere estate near Alipore Zoo in Kolkata is the largest library in India. It stands proudly under the surveillance of Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism And Culture, Government of India. The national library is a storehouse of Indian culture, knowledge and heritage. It was the residence of the former Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. The presence of over 24, 00,000 books (in almost all the Indian languages, including some foreign languages as well), and manuscripts numbering over 3000, bear testimony to the above statement. The library houses more than 6,00,000 books in Indian languages alone.

The rich heritage of India is incomplete without Sanskrit. The library possesses a separate division for the collection and preservation of this ancient dialect. More that 20,000 Sanskrit books in Devnagari script enrich the shelves of the library. The collection is so rich and varied that research in Sanskrit is almost impossible without paying a visit to this treasure house. Apart from Sanskrit, there are about 500 books in Pali and almost quite the same number of books in Prakrit.

The National Library contains many rare manuscripts of ancient literature like the Bengali translation of the ‘Ramayana’ and the ‘Mahabharata’ by Krittibash and Kashee Ram Dass, dated 1805 and 1802 respectively. Other notable rarities include original manuscripts of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and all the works of Rabindra Nath Tagore. A separate division for the Hindi language was established in the year 1960. Today, it houses more than 80,000 Hindi literary works.

Other language works enriching the library are the works in Tamil, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Kashmiri, Oriya, Punjabi, Telugu and Urdu. The library not only has Indian divisions as far as languages are concerned, it also has divisions in the foreign languages category. They are the East Asian Language, Germanic language division, Romance languages division, Slavonic Language division, West Asian and African language Division.

A distinct division of the library houses the rare books. Books published prior to 1860 are stacked separately to take special care of these books. At present, the division has about 4700 monographs, 3000 manuscripts and 1500 microfilms. The xylographs presented by the Dalai Lama are also preserved in this collection.

One of the basic functions of the National Library is that of conservation and preservation of the printed heritage for the future. All the books damaged by human error or by natural decay due to time are bound in the special division called the Bounding Division. An advanced system of chemical treatment is adopted to preserve and restore the damaged and brittle books. A new fumigation chamber has been indigenously developed to destroy termites and insects. Encapsulation is another method of preservation adopted.

The Reprography division has already produced the ancient newspapers, journals, Arabian, Persian and Sanskrit into more than 5000 microfilms to preserve the rich heritage. The scanning and archiving of rare and brittle books on compact discs have been undertaken. So far 6600 selected books have been reproduced in more than 540 CDs. The historians get the richest collection of newspapers and periodicals. It also contains the original letters and notes of famous personalities like Pandit Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and others.

Although different divisions look after the welfare of the numerous storehouses of knowledge, there are many problems creeping round the corner. The library receives numerous books and periodicals in almost every Indian language under the Delivery of Books & Newspapers (Public Libraries) Act of 1954.

Well, many of the inhabitants of Kolkata do not even know what or where is the National Library. It has turned from a strategic place of knowledge to an old architecture gathering dust. In the past, book used to be damaged by readers but nowadays they are being destroyed by termites, eaten by rust and ruined in the hands of time. Emergence of the Internet and such other faster means of communication have left the library neglected. The habit of reading has almost disappeared in the current generation. We are so driven by shallow fantasies that we have forgotten a national treasure.

Magical Terrains – Shashi Deshpande

July 24, 2008

Shashi Deshpande talks about dealing with new landscapes of love and goodness in her new novel In the Country of Deceit; the potential for conflicts between the magical and unexpected aspects of creativity, and the marketing hype of modern-day publishing. Excerpts from a conversation with writer USHA K.R.

With eight novels, six collections of short stories, four children’s books, essays and translations from Kannada and Marathi into English, you are one of the few Indian writers in English with a corpus of work, and one who has successfully handled different forms. You have explored conventional feminist themes, as in your Sahitya Akademi Award winning novel That Long Silence as well as broader human concerns through your male protagonists, such as Gopal in A Matter of Time and Baba in Moving On. Tell us something about your forthcoming novel. Where does it stand in the context of your work and your concerns?

Each new novel comes as a surprise — one never knows what’s coming and where it’s coming from. This novel, In the Country of Deceit, has been a surprise for two other reasons. One is the character who brought it into being. Generally, once a novel is done, the characters withdraw gracefully, making room for other people. But Devayani, a character in an early novel Come Up and Be Dead, lingered. I ignored her, but she was quietly persistent. Five novels and 20 years later, after completing Moving On, I realised that the next novel would be Devayani’s story. This, however, is not a sequel.

The second surprise to me was that this is a love story.

And the title is In the Country of Deceit?

Yes. Seems odd, doesn’t it? But when you think of what love does to people and the things love makes them do… My novel explores the slippery, treacherous terrain that love takes people into. Actually, except for one or two early attempts, I had never written a love story, in the sense in which these words are usually used. It amuses me that I had to get to this age to be able to write one. Once I began, I realised the difficulties of writing about love. It’s so easy to slip into clichéd language, clichéd situations, to become banal and maudlin. But the truth is that love is a strong emotion; there is nothing banal or clichéd about it. My gold standard for a love story is Wuthering Heights — the scene where Heathcliff waits outside all night while Catherine is dying is so amazingly powerful.

Some time during the writing of this novel, I realised that I have been exploring the idea of love in all my novels. Different kinds of love, the different faces of love. I also find myself increasingly interested in the idea of goodness in human beings. The emphasis today, perhaps because of the times, is on violence, on evil. Goodness, when it is written about, is made to seem like weakness. In fact, we shy away from the very word. We speak of values instead. Nevertheless, goodness is real, it exists — not only in people like Bapu or Mother Teresa, but in ordinary people. It is these people who make life worth living. So, whether it is Joe in Small Remedies, Kalyani in A Matter of Time, Akka in The Binding Vine, or Gayatri in Moving On, they make life possible for others.

A ‘writerly’ writer, I believe, pursues the same or similar themes in different guises, often without being aware of it. Your work has been strong on ‘literary’ qualities — the imagination, the story fused with its telling, with the structure, with deeply drawn characters. What do you basically seek to do in your novels? While the ‘imagination’ is important, how do you incorporate ‘fact’ into your fiction? How much of ‘research’ do you do?

To me, a novel is basically a story. About people. So when I write a novel, I write about humans and human relationships. Of their struggle to make sense of life, to understand their place in the scheme of things. At the same time, since people don’t live in a vacuum, I need to know the details of their lives: where they live, the culture, language, religion of the society they live in and so on. And there’s their work, their professions. I had to understand something of Hindustani music to write about Savitribai, I had to read up on anatomy to write about Jiji’s father, the Professor of Anatomy. Before I begin writing, I must have all this information, even though when I write I will use only those facts which are relevant to the story. Of course, our lives are affected by events around us, but the important thing to a novelist is how characters react to events, not the event itself. How people’s lives change because of happenings, not the happening itself. And that is how events and history enter the novel, through people’s lives, through their perceptions. I consider the demands of the story to be the novelist’s first concern. Research (a word I rather dislike in connection with a novel) is necessary in the interests of accuracy, but the facts have to be invisible, submerged. Even in a historical novel, where research is so important, a skilful author will weave facts into the story, into the lives of the characters and not make them obtrusive.

But there’s no denying that the novels that tackle grand themes, that span continents and centuries, or have major events at their centre are considered big. For instance, one would automatically assume that In the Country of Deceit signals to a larger entity…

I don’t think of it as big or small. I know that love is a basic and universal human emotion. So is the pain that comes on betrayal. I find it a problem that we divide novels into big and small (or major and minor) depending on the theme of the novel, the issues, or its ideological value. (Though, very strangely, if the ideology is feminism, there is a kind of devaluation!) Indian Writing in English (IWE) is more concerned with issues than ideologies, and therefore novels which deal with “big” issues, like terrorism, fundamentalism and national and international events, become major novels; so too those that span, as you say, continents and centuries. For some reason, IWE thinks that to be important, novels have to be “narratives of the nation”. But aren’t all stories of human lives part of this narrative?

And, as a reader, I am not looking out for a significant novel; I’m looking for a good novel. I did not think that John Updike’s Terrorist or Ian McEwan’s Saturday, (which is about 9/11), were good novels. We read a novel not because it increases our knowledge, but because it illuminates our own lives; human stories echo one another across time and space. And if large issues and themes were to make novels significant, what about novels like Emma, Howard’s End, or Wuthering Heights, almost perfect novels in my opinion? It is tempting to see the big picture as the real one, but one can get as much, if not more, from a micro picture. In fact, I very defiantly used Erica Jong’s words about all stories being stories of families as the epigraph to Moving On.

IWE has become an exciting place — other than big and small books, there are so may new writers experimenting with different forms — the graphic novel, variations of historical fiction, fantasy, chick lit … Is it time to celebrate the ‘richness’ of IWE? Can we claim that IWE has come of age?

Certainly there has been much vigour and confidence, as well as good writing in IWE in the last few years. But there’s no room for complacence. It has to go a long way before we can call it “rich”. We need many more books in all genres — romance, historical fiction, crime novels, children’s books, drama, poetry and so on. While non-fiction is doing well, short stories are dwindling, poetry remains invisible except to poets and poetry lovers, crime fiction is still not making its presence felt and we don’t have enough books for children of all ages. And have you noticed the lack of diversity in the voices? We’re all so politically correct. And of course, there’s the never-ending problem of letting Western publishers decide which are the books that matter, since the books they publish inevitably get more noticed. Personally, I also consider the lack of what I call good middle-of-the-road writing a huge lacuna. There are not enough readable books, something between the literary novel and pulp fiction. Not cordon bleu cuisine, not junk food, just everyday food that keeps you going. As a child, writers like Daphne du Maurier, A.J. Cronin, Somerset Maugham, Agatha Christie — and many others who wrote good books, if not high literary fiction. — kept me hooked to reading.

Yes, it is not enough to breed ambitious writers. There has to be a healthy, vibrant literary environment to sustain them — libraries, book clubs, through which readers and writers can interact, responsive university departments, a culture of literary criticism.

No argument about this! Circulating libraries have always been important in popularising novels, right from Jane Austen’s time. I too did all my reading through library books. There were no bookshops, and who had the money to buy books anyway? I was fascinated to read that in Victorian times, Mudie’s, the circulating library, was able to influence the shape of the novel. The three volume form came because it was more profitable for Mudie’s to circulate one novel among three readers. And since most subscribers belonged to the middle class, the novels were also expected to be close to their sensibilities. The point was that that the novel was mostly read through these libraries which made it possible for Mudie’s to subsidise publishers. Sadly we have few book libraries in India now.

Books must also be written about. Writing and criticism go hand in hand …

Yes, criticism is important for both writers and readers, But what do we have? Academic critics, whose jargon distances the ordinary reader. Reviews in magazines and newspapers, necessarily short, because there is never enough space for books, often casual, if not flippant, poorly informed and at times actuated by malice and frustration. Recently I read somewhere that John Updike’s reviewing was accessible and designed to give pleasure. That’s how a review should be. There should be honesty, not cruelty. And respect for the work being reviewed. Some of the reviews in India are what I can only call soul-destroying. I can imagine what it does to younger writers.

While there are more people writing in English today, we still do not seem to have a domestic market that can sustain indigenous writers.

No, we don’t, which is why I was amazed to read Jeffrey Archer’s comment that the Indian market is bigger than the U.S. market. Things are changing and at some time this may happen, but right now it isn’t true. You and I who are published in India know this very well. I’ll believe that we have a big domestic market the day an author from the West sends a manuscript to an Indian publisher and the Indian publisher says, “our readers won’t understand this. Why don’t you change this and this and this?” And the author does it!

On the one hand, writing is an unhurried, reflective activity. We know that writers take time to mature, to find their voice, and they need publishers who recognise this, and readers who will grow with them. On the other hand is the loud, high octane act of marketing, which is unavoidable today but quite contrary to the spirit of creativity. This also creates a climate of impatience which sends out misleading signals to young writers. That perhaps there are ‘formulas’ for success. It is making it increasingly difficult for writers and readers to trust their judgement. How can we ever resolve these two contrary aspects?

There was a time when I was optimistic, I thought IWE is on the right path, we have many talented writers, publishers and a bigger English readership. But marketing has changed everything. With huge global markets and so much money at stake, it has become frighteningly powerful. The problem with IWE is that writing in English enables a book to enter the world market. And agents/ publishers have their own idea of what an “Indian novel” should be; to be published, writers have to toe the line. I heard an Australian writer say, (they are roughly in the same situation as we are, not enough of a home market, so they need to publish outside) her book was judged by a question: where are the kangaroos? For us, it would be: where are the elephants? Young writers will try to provide the elephants because they need to be published. How does one blame them? And will publishers ever understand that even if the book is now a product to be sold by aggressive marketing, good writing, unlike other products, can’t be produced using a formula! There’s some magic about creation, about its unexpectedness and amazing vitality. We lose out on originality and the unexpected if we try to control or curb creativity. That’s why the willingness and ability of young writers to adapt worries me, because the future of any literature lies with the young.

And you are so right about writers and readers beginning to mistrust their own judgement, given the kind of books that are thrust on us as “great”. But this is where literary critics need to take control and assert literary values, to separate the grain from the chaff.

Equally worrying is what marketing does to readers. Veteran readers may go past known names and best-selling lists to choose a book by an unknown author, or a less-known favourite author. But novice readers have to go entirely by what they read in the media. And the media projects only some authors, the successful ones mainly; most others remain invisible. Readers should not be hustled into buying a book because of marketing spiel! I think that literature is really a conversation between a writer and a reader. We need to re-establish this direct and personal relationship.

But writers persist, despite everything. What would you say to young or aspiring writers?

That’s true. I think the fact that so many of us go on despite indifferent publishers, ignorant reviews and little money makes it clear that it’s the writing that really matters. As for me, I don’t think I’d ever want to do anything else. I’ve written through bad times, through difficult times and later wondered how I did it. But I guess that’s what kept me going, still keeps me going.

Advice for aspiring writers? Keep reading, keep writing, and don’t expect to make a living out of writing. Hold on to your job!

(Source: The Hindu)

Indian language books translated in Hindi for the young readers

July 23, 2008

The set of 10 books by Katha is a nice clutch of stories for the young reader. They are translations and adaptations from various Indian languages.

A short story by Bibhuti Bhusan Bandopadhyay titled Padak forms a part of the repertoire.

There aren’t too many sentences on a single page and they make perfect read alouds. Kokila ki mast matka is a lovely yellow book with a cheeky cat and a grinning pot on a stand gracing the cover. Take a look and it’s easy to see why you might want it immediately. Check out naughty monkey Mitji swinging from his tree and bothering everyone.

Jalebiya gives you a taste of what these syrupy golden rings can do you. They can make your eyes round and your mouth water.

The drawings are the highpoint of the stories. Carefully illustrated, they make each story come alive.

KAFUR by Manoj; BHIKU KI DIARY Mita kakodkar; PADAK by Bibhuti Bhusan Bandopadhyay; KOKILA KI MAST MATKA by Geeta Dharmarajan; MITJI by Kaveri D; JALEBIYA by Ahmed Nadim Kashmi, PITTI KA SABON by Sanjay Khati; DALAL by Ram Kisan; PANDRA by Ambai; DAGDU PARAB KA ASHWA MEDH by Jayant Kekini; Katha Publications, Rs 65

(Source: The Hindu)

Some Muslim translators of the Holy Qur’an

July 22, 2008

THE 17th century witnessed the publication of first English translation of the Holy Qur’an, that is, the one published by Alexander Ross in 1649 and in the 18th century only one translation was published; namely, the one by George Sale in 1731. The 19th century witnessed the publication of two translations; namely, those of J. M. Rodwell in 1861 and F.H. Palmer 1880. In the 20th century, there was a growing interest in the studies related to the Qur’an and this led to the emergence of tens of English translations of the meanings of the Qur’an.

The 20th century also witnessed the publication of English translations by Muslims. All of the translations published before 1905 were done by Christians, Jews and Ahmadiyyas. Those translations abounded in distortions and mistakes – unintentionally or intentionally – due to religious bias or for the sake of propaganda.

This made many Muslims translate the meanings of the Qur’an to give an objective picture of Islam and its Holy Book, the Qur’an. Dr. Abdul Hakim Khan was the first Muslim translator to publish a translation of the meanings of the Qur’an entitled Holy Qur’an Translated: With Short Notes. This translation was published in India in 1905.

His translation was followed by tens of translations by other Muslims trying as much as they could to convey some of the grandeur of the Holy Qur’an and the tolerant nature of Islam and Muslims. The most important ones are those done by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall and Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

As for Pickthall, he was the first English Muslim to translate the meanings of the Qur’an into English. In 1930, he published his translation, The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an: an Explanatory Translation.

Pickthall was a convert to Islam who was not satisfied with previous translations abounding in mistakes and distortions. Due to being the Imam of one of the mosques in England, Pickthall realized the necessity of having an English translation of the meanings of the Qur’an for his sermons and to help his congregation to have a proper understanding of the meanings of the Qur’an.

Pickthall spells out his motive for translating the meanings of the Qur’an in these words, “to try to expound the glorious Qur’an to my people in a manner intelligible to them in their own language at the present day.”

To revise his translation, Pickthall resorted to a distinguished Egyptian scholar and a devout Muslim, Dr Muhammad Ahmed Al Ghamrawi. This work was supervised by Mostafa Al Maraghy, Sheikh of Al Azhar. Since its publication, Pickthall’s translation has become among the most common ones in the Muslim world.

As for Yusuf Ali’s translation, it is regarded as the most popular translation in the Muslim world. Yusuf Ali (1870 – 1953) was born in India and received his education at the University of Bombay, St John College, Cambridge and Lincoln’s Inn, London. He worked as a lecturer of Hindustani language and Indian religious manner at the University of London between 1917 and 1919.

His father taught him Arabic when he was of the age of four or five. As a Muslim, he was highly motivated and enthusiastic to present his own translation of the meanings of the Qur’an.

In the preface to the first edition, Yusuf Ali points out that the aim of his translation is to communicate the beauty, uniqueness and inimitability of the Qur’an.

– Dr. Khaled Tawfik