restricted access 6. The Rough Ground of Translation in the Marathi and English Jejuri
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195 c h a p t e r 6 The Rough Ground of Translation in the Marathi and English Jejuri At the moment I find myself at the crossroads, unless “confused” is the word I want. About which one I should tackle first. Get back to the Marathi version, or continue with the English. What I may end up doing is quite likely this: break the book down into two, or perhaps even three manageable chunks, treat them, as three books, each one anywhere between sixty to eighty thousand words, and finish them, one at a time, in both the languages more or less simultaneously. —Balwant Bua proposal, Kolatkar Papers Kolatkar already had a coterie reputation in the 1970s, and he became well-known after the publication of the English Jejuri when it won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1977. Among other things, in 1977 Homi Bhabha declared the arrival of Indian poetry with the publication of Jejuri;1 the Marathi little magazine Rucha brought out a special issue on Kolatkar in 1977, and the English little magazine Kavi devoted a section of its January 1978 issue to Kolatkar.2 However, when the English Jejuri came out in book form in 1976, there were some critical reviews of it in Marathi by eminent writers like P. S. Rege3 and Bhalchandra Nemade. “Why should someone who was born in Kolhapur, who studied in a Marathi school, and who is essentially a Marathi poet write in English?” asked Nemade, who concluded that “in order to stand out in the framework of an alien tongue, Kolatkar had to disavow the realities of home.”4 Kolatkar was accused of exoticizing his own culture in return for foreign recognition, and these charges were based on the language of the poetry, English, which was seen as fueling this alienating drive in the work. Others more approving of this work wondered what would emerge if there were a Marathi version of this book of poems.5 Dilip Chitre, friend and admirer of Kolatkar, and 196  ❘  The Texts supporter of his English usage, even declared a Marathi Jejuri unviable. “Take the famous example of Jejuri,” said Chitre: even Kolatkar could not have conceived it in Marathi. Its ironic objectivity is a property of Kolatkar’s poetic ideolect, and he is using his other language—as the language of the other in a spiritual sense as well. Of course it is possible to translate Jejuri into Kolatkar’s mother tongue, which is Marathi. But in this case the mother will be found lacking the stepmother’s brilliant craft and crooked wit. The very theme of Jejuri will collide head on with the Marathi poetic tradition moulded by Bhakti. In English it has got a traffic lane of its own within a wide mainstream of modernity. By choosing to write Jejuri in English Kolatkar has avoided a nasty cultural accident.6 The Marathi Jejuri was published in 2011,7 and this changes the literary situation of reading the text; it demands a review of both books in conjunction and an evaluation as to whether the “nasty cultural incident” happened. The comparative reading retroactively transforms the writing act from being seen as a mere pandering to the West to an articulation of a new, bilingual way of writing and living, somewhere between the extremes of Anglocentric elitism and a parochial linguistic regionalism. By setting the two languages adjacent to each other in his work, and by showing the multiple bridges across but also the inevitable slippage between them, Kolatkar presents the nature of Bombay’s everyday life in the work of his writing. In this chapter, I will first chart the path of bilingualism and translational practice in its social and political context in Mumbai, followed by the history of publication of the two books of poetry, separated by thirty-five years and two languages. The heart of the chapter is a close reading of the corresponding poems in the two languages, side by side, in order to show the slippery nature of the translational practices, and through which I question the efficacy of the concept of “translation” as it is currently understood, and whether the term suffices to describe the complex to and fro across languages that one sees in Kolatkar’s poetry.8 T h e P ol i t ic s of L a ng uag e i n M a h a r a sh t r a Language issues are inextricably entwined with the events happening...


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