Translation to Tamil from Other Languages is the Publishing Trend Now

Translations are emerging as the new big story in Tamil publishing. Polemical political writing to self-help guides to classics from other languages, Indian and European, are now being translated into Tamil. If you are interested in Tamil writing and are proficient in foreign languages  such as French, German, Spanish, Russian or any other popular language(s), there is an opportunity for you. Read on

Major publishing houses like Vidiyal, which brought out the Hitman book, Uyirmai, Kalachuvadu and Bharathi Publications, are all looking to push translations in a big way. Of course, books like A P J Abdul Kalam’s “Wings of Fire” and many self-help or career guidance volumes have always done well. The Tamil translation of ‘Where There Is No Doctor’, a popular health care guide published first in Spanish in 1970, has so far sold over 50,000 copies and Adaiyalam, its publisher, is readying the third edition. A team of doctors working on different sections of the book translated it into Tamil.

Similarly, ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit-man’, a polemical tome on neo-liberal economic policies, turned out to be a successful venture for its publisher, Vidiyal. Translations of Oxford University Press’s A Very Short Introduction series on topics such as linguistics and post-colonialism won the publisher, Adaiyalam, much praise.

A welcome spin-off from the trend is that publishers are willing to do even literary classics. For instance, Kalachuvadu has 100 translated works, 80 of these from foreign languages, in its publishing list.

Not just the Russian greats like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, but modernists like Kafka and Camus to contemporary greats like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jose Saramago, Mario Vargos Llosa, Murakami and Orhan Pamuk are available in Tamil today. So are iconic writers in languages like Malayalam and Kannada, Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer and U R Ananthamurthy. Why, even the young Kashmiri writer Basharat Peer, whose Night of the Curfew, an internationally-acclaimed memoir about the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, has now a Tamil version.

B Jeyamohan, the renowned author, says the trend picked up steam in the past five or six years. In the past, writers like Kaa Naa Subramaniam would publish abridged versions of classics just to introduce them to Tamil readers. “In the 1940s and 1950s, there existed a scenario in which translators in Tamil could live off their work. After the Kalki era, translations lost commercial value. Now in the age of TV, when readership itself has dwindled, Tamil translations don’t have the same prestige. But in the last five to six years, there is a small wave of translations happening in the language. With the publication boom since 2000, houses feel the compulsion to add translations to their kitty at least for the prestige value, while some publications like Kalachuvadu do it out of their own interest in bringing good books into the language,” says Jeyamohan.

The numbers are small in the case of classics, of course. My Name is Red, a modern classic by the Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, has sold only over a 1,000 copies. Publishers, however, indicate that is no small number since Pamuk is a serious readers’ writer.

What is even more interesting is that increasingly translations from French and German, are being made directly from the mother language to Tamil, and not via English, which is the case in most Indian languages. V Sriram, who translated classics like The Little Prince and Albert Camus’ The Outsider into Tamil directly from French original, sees the process as an exchange between cultures. “It is an interpretation of a culture. Tamils looks at things differently and so do the French. But ultimately everyone is human,” he says. G Kuppusamy, who translated My Name Is Red and John Banville’s Sea, is himself a short-story writer and says that it is only recently that the translations have started to become more authentic. “There is a steady increase in readership. Translators like V Sriram and R Sivakumar are meticulous and therefore deserve praise,” he said.

However, many publishers are intimidated by the rights issue. Rights to translate novels and works of non-fiction into Tamil haven’t been always easy to get. Mu Sadhiq of Adaiyalam says only few publishing houses bother to get the rights from authors before translating them. “Tamil doesn’t have a healthy trend when compared to Malayalam where books are quickly available in translation. This is because no one here knows how to get rights and also because translations do have the same audience here as in Kerala,” Kannan said.

Posted on August 1, 2012, in Art, Business, Hobby and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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