Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Translation in Nepali literature has not stridden enough steps and with a handful of crafty translators in the lot, even the best works of literature have been deprived of international notice and recognition. One of those few handful and crafty translators in Nepal, Jayant Sharma took an initiative of taking Nepali literature global through a literary journal whose scope lies in reaching as far as Nepali literature can claim a place in global literary front. He is the executive editor and publisher of the English edition of SATHI, the literary journal published quarterly since 2002 and one of its first kinds in Nepal. Having served in various national and international organizations as translator, editor and writer, he contributes regular write-ups to major national dailies and South-Asian journals regarding arts, literature and culture, and has more than a dozen of books translated to his credit, out of which some acclaimed ones are ‘Children Stories of Nepal’, ‘In the battle of Kirtipur’, ‘Gurkha War Poems’, ‘Odes from the Himalayas’, ‘Colours of Epoch’ to name a few. His interviews on translation and writing have appeared in various journals. Everest Height’s Kathmandu correspondent in a tête-à-tête with Mr. Sharma.

How would you elucidate the significance of translation in literature?

This is quite a topic that demands a detailed discourse. As we know literature is the reflection of people and place, life and society snapped on different epochs of history, and to impart this knowledge to a world unknown, I see no alternative of translation. Ancient texts seen as the earliest form of literature propagated throughout the world by means of translation.  In short, whatever knowledge we have been able to acquire so far about world and universe, religion and science, philosophy and literature, civilization and society, and etcetera is the outcome of translation only. 

You said you have around two dozens of book translation to your credit. What charm do you find in translation that you don’t find in other creative writing projects?

It’s not that I don’t fancy creative form of writing; in fact, I have been doing it long before my professional stint in translation but when question comes about our existence in the map of world literature, translation is what I think the only way Nepali literature can depict its identity. We read books of different languages and cultures of world that have helped us know the world, the people and the society we have never seen. But has the other part of the world known Nepal as it really is? Have they ever realized that Nepali arts, culture and literature are also equally rich? My translation is a small effort to abridge that vacuum. Moreover, like creative writing, translation also is a craft and this art of promoting arts and literature tempts me comparatively more. However, I consider translation not just a charm but a serious need for the upliftment of Nepali literature.

How do you cohere the artistry and thoughtfulness of original writing in translated form?

This is where the cross-language study and a strong command over both the languages work boons for translators. It can either way be aided by thematic translation. With that, you can dexterously carve words to retain artistry while keeping its thought essence also intact. I don’t see literal translation as any form of craft or thought rendering process, though many of translations seen in Nepal lately have a greater affinity towards it.

Do you agree Nepal lacks good translators? If yes, what may be the possible reasons?

It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing but about probing. If I say Nepal lacks good translators, I am obliged to ask myself what good and bad translations are and who is to evaluate the goodness and badness in them. For now, I simply marvel at the number of translators we have in Nepal, leave alone being good. By putting a label of ‘good’ or ‘bad’, we might just be doing injustice to all the translators in the lot who are playing their best part to take literature beyond borders. Because translators in Nepal have come out of their self-interest and no formal tutelage. Yes, we lack necessary skills and as always, we inflict blame upon the state only but we just can’t laden our ineptitude over state everytime; we translators also need to explore a basic purview of translation methodology prevalent in the world by means of research, study and practice. Many times, financial constraints also come to affect the quality of translation and enthusiasm of translators because literary translation in Nepal is seen as not that financially rewarding job.

You have initiated to take Nepali literature global through SATHI. Do you agree Nepali literature translating in English garner that level of acclaim international, as they make in Nepali domain?

Yes, I am very hopeful of Nepali literature getting international acclaims. But sad to say, Nepali literature is presently standing nowhere in the mainstream world literature. There are Nepali works equally good to stand neck and neck with other literatures of the world, but lack of authorised body to take care of promoting Nepali literature, lack of skilled translators and critics to judge the quality of translation and many other factors have deterred the process. I was and still very hopeful and it’s the same hope that had actuated me to initiate SATHI and it’s with that same hope I guess, Nepali translators and writers also have shown great interest of late. Once things come to our favour, it won’t be surprising to see Nepali writers receiving international accreditation and coveted prizes.

It is said that literal translation alone does not encompass the essence of thematic translation and without a thematic adaptation, the implication of philosophy also seems futile. In such a context, have the translation activities seen in Nepali literature been able to embody this notion?

As I’ve said earlier, literal translation is an art form where words get translated and not wisdom. For some particular genre, literal translation is fine but I personally think creative writing needs to be rendered thematically. Yes, literal translation can’t address the thematic department of writing and in such a case, the philosophy associated with a creation also goes astray. Talking about how far it has been implemented in Nepali literature depends upon the translator’s knack of the art. 

Talking about Nepali literature rendered in English, I have always revered Devkota as the connoisseur of translation. His translated works carry the pure embodiment of the thematic school of thought. Other foreign scholars translating Nepali literature like Larry Hartsell, Michael J. Hutt, Wayne Amtzis, Maya Watson, also have touched the very essence of retaining the thought process. Many contemporary translators are following the footsteps of Devkota but as a cumulative output of the Nepali literature in translation, we are hooked up to the same literal base and Nepali translations have lost its flavor eventually in the making. We seriously need to set up an official translation unit and start translation theory and criticism studies to enhance the quality of the translations, which otherwise will misrepresent Nepali literature in the global scene.

When did you first start to translate? What work was it?

Actually, my translation started as early as my reading and writing back in school days. There were times when I used to translate various texts from English into Nepali, or Hindi into Nepali, and likewise. That was long back and I don’t have record of them or in anyway, they were meant to be judged. It was just a beginning, a learning process I surmise. But it was later in the college days that I started taking translation seriously. The first work I remember translating was ‘Chiso Ashtray’ by Bhupi Sherchan back in 2000 and was published in a literary journal of that time and later in a couple of other literary zines as well. But when I have to talk about a volume, it has to be an acclaimed historical drama by Hridaya Chandra Singh Pradhan called ‘Kirtipur ko Yuddha Ma’ rendered into English as ‘In the battle of Kirtipur’ and published circa 2005.

What works of translation are you currently indulged in?

I recently finished translations of two anthologies of lyrical poems, an anthology of short stories by Tej Prakash Shrestha and an anthology of Gurkha war poems published from UK. Currently, I am translating a collection of biographic experiences of Gurkha war veterans. Alongside, I am also working on Vijay Chalise’s ‘Mustang ko Gufa’ and sporadic translations for SATHI. 


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