Interview with Gita Krishnankutty

Gita Krishnankutty is an award-winning and well established translator from Malayalam to English. Her work won her first Crossword Indian language fiction award in 1999, and this year her translation of ‘Govardhan’s Travels: A Novel’ written by Anand shared the Vodafone Crossword book award with Arunava Sinha’s rendition of a Bengali novel ‘Chowringhee’ by Shankar. Dr Krishnankutty has also won two Katha awards for translation. She has studied English literature and French, and lives and works in Chennai. She spoke with Rrishi Raote

What impact does winning an award like this have?
I don’t know that it makes that much difference. Translations are not selling well anyway and I don’t have much hope on that score. They say it’s changing but as far as we are concerned, I look for my books in bookshops and I don’t see them.

Your writing and translation often have to do with women’s issues and identity. Is this a major theme of Malayalam literature?
I would think so, yes, because Malayalis have been concerned with that. Regional literature is very rich in all fields. We have so many languages and not enough being translated, except for Bengali and Malayalam. In Tamil and Telugu more are coming out now. We [translators] work very hard and sometimes I wonder why.

You have translated three books so far by MT Vasudevan Nair. As a translator, why are you drawn to his books?
I’ve always liked him. Also because he has written so much, he hadn’t restricted himself to any one genre: short story, screenplay, article, novel…

How do you choose what you will translate?
The way we do translations varies a lot. Some are commissioned by publishers, some we choose the text. Sometimes we’re told by the publisher to do a particular author. It’s not always entirely our choice.

What makes a translatable author? Are some more difficult to translate than others?
Anand [CP Sachidanandan] was difficult, he’s a very cerebral writer. You work your way into the text. He’s also very cooperative. I used to [ask to] find out whether I’ve got it right. That’s also an interesting experience, continuous feedback. The challenge of the text becomes quite exciting.

Besides translation, what do you do?
I listen to music. I taught French at the Alliance Francaise, but just for a short while.

Have learning and teaching French had any bearing on your translation work?
You do realise that you can move from language to language without too much difficulty. But I have not really used anything that I learnt there in Malayalam-English.

What are you working on now?
I have a few pieces here and there, nothing I’m ready to talk about. I have the urge to write but I’ve never written. Well, I’ve written one biography. It’s about the founder of ayurveda in Kerala, founder of the Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala [Aryavaidyan PS Varier]. That sold well, but I don’t hear about it now.

Memoir and biography seem to be making a comeback now – is this also true in Malayalam?
I see it happening and I think people like to read memoirs provided there’s enough material there. It’s always been interesting. There was a short biography of a sex worker recently translated – a matter-of-fact rendering [Nalini Jameela’s Autobiography of a Sex Worker, trans. J Devika]. In Malayalam it did extremely well.

(Source: Business Standard)

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6 Responses to “Interview with Gita Krishnankutty”

  1. AM I A HINDU? Says:

    Namasthe Ms. Gita Krishnankutty: I am very much with what you have achieved so far and I wish you godspeed in your endeavors.

    I am orginally from Caicut, Kerala and I wish to have some one translated my book AM I A HINDU? AM I A HINDU? [ http://www.amiahindu.com [ISBN 1-879904-06-3 HALO BOOKS, USA and RUPA PRESS in India ] to Malayalam. This book already translated to HINDI [ “Kya Mai Hindu Hai?”]

    Please contact me aamiahindu@yahoo.com

    • Mary Clare Zacharias Says:

      Have you found someone to translate your book into English yet? Just curious.I am working on a project in translation and feel that this wonderful process is worth investing some time in.

  2. margaret paul joseph Says:

    Does Mrs. Krishnankutty have an email ID? I would like to ask her about Christian literature in Malayalam

  3. Mary Clare Zacharias Says:

    hello ma’m, I am working on a project in translation and would love to know if there is an English translation for M.T Vasudevan Nair’s short story ‘Ninte Ormaykku’.

  4. Kallazhi Sivadasan Says:

    i would like to translate my novel Naattuvelicham in Malayalam to English by ms. Gita krishnamoorthy since I liked her interview. could you kindly give me her contact numbers and adress. regards,

  5. Kallazhi Sivadasan Says:

    sorry I wrote her name as Gita Krishnamoorthy instead of Geetha Krishnankutty

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