restricted access 3. Translation and the Local Nexus of the Global in Sathottari Indian Literature
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106 c h a p t e r 3 Translation and the Local Nexus of the Global in Sathottari Indian Literature Dreaming in four different languages And of continents of silence    A man is fucked up by the nagging problem of meaning —Dilip Chitre, “The Translator” When Vijaya Rajadhyaksha, the noted critic of B. S. Mardhekar’s poetry, asked of the sathottari little magazines in Marathi, “Here the question arises, why did these little magazines place so much importance on translated poetry? [Was it] because they felt Marathi poetry was meaningless ?”1 one could say she was being disingenuous about the long history of translations that permeates the chronology of Marathi writing of the entire twentieth century, or of all of modernist literature. Translations have an irrevocable relation to modernities around the globe,2 but while “cultural form, social practices, and institutional arrangements surface in most places in the wake of modernity . . . , at each national and cultural site, those elements are put together (reticulated) in a unique and contingent formation in response to local culture and politics.”3 It is necessary  to historicize the translating process, the translators themselves, and the texts they choose to transfer across languages to examine “this man [or woman], this language, this island, this background, this school, this time”4 and see who translates, from where, in what context, and what the achieved result is. This is the narrative of how the sathottari writers had their own unique connection to the practice of translation and how they employed it to their own local ends in Bombay. It is important to note that it was no easy glide across the various sathottari languages and cultures when the poets translated with equal fervor from Western literatures (English, French, and Latin American being the most prevalent) or from South Asian literatures (Urdu, Translation and the Local Nexus of the Global  ❘  107 Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, English, Gujarati, and Tamil were just a few of the many). As Emily Apter states, “The term ‘translation’ has been compromised by its association with the metaphor of fluid borders.”5 Sometimes a facile statement of internationalism is made about the sathottari poets, an easy hybridity that rolls off the tongue, the pages, and the minds of the readers who assert the smooth crossing of all boundaries by the poets who apparently had a smorgasbord of international literature and only had to choose what to consume. A closer look at the material conditions and contexts of the creation of this literature instead shows frictions, resistances, and a move across boundaries that is deliberate and hard-earned, a narrative of the sathottari years in which translations became both a possibility and a necessity. The cosmopolitanism of the urban space and the literary cross-fertilization of the poetry of this period reflect an unequal world of international politics, local agitations, riots, and activism where, besides being a bridge across separated spaces, the presence of translation and multilingualism was also a tool of protest and a pathway to infuse new life into old forms. The sathottari writers were routinely going across regional boundaries in search of a modern way of narrating the post-independent urban condition. The international boundary crossing is always mentioned, but it is notable how much transregional travel the literary texts were accomplishing through translations. It reveals the deep cosmopolitanisms of this indigenizing project of Bombay poetry in English and in Marathi, where the poets created a peculiarly unique sense of the local through such travels. That contemporaneous moment was reached through the harnessing of regional and international energies in the case of both English and Marathi sathottari poetry. If the English poets proceeded to find indigenous connections through their translations, the Marathi poets found transregional and international cosmopolitanisms through them.6 In the end, even if the road leading up to the sathottari literary culture in Bombay might have been distinct for English and Marathi literatures, they assemble together at the meeting point of the contemporary local of the Bombay modern that they crafted together. E ngl ish P oe t ry a n d p o e t r y i n d i a Nissim Ezekiel is universally seen as the mentor and the earliest English poet-practitioner of the modernism associated with sathottari Bombay. 108  ❘  The Context In his introduction to The Oxford Anthology of Twelve Modern Indian Poets, the editor and poet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra declares that “the origins of modern Indian poetry in English go no further...