ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

An occasional versus systematic self-translator: Ajeet Cour and Krishna Sobti as intercultural agents.


Puri Maria - Independent scholar, New Delhi, India


20 – Self-translation, translating the self: Multilingual writers in South Asia


 In his study Grutman (2013) tags bilingual writers, depending on their proclivity for self-translation, as “abstaining”, “occasional” and “systematic”. The terms being self-explanatory, it follows that not every bilingual author turns to self-translation, and even if so, not necessarily on permanent basis. Present paper looks at two cases of self-translation involving two Delhi writers, both native speakers of Punjabi, Ajeet Cour writing in Punjabi, and Krishna Sobti writing in Hindi. In the case of Cour, an “occasional” translator, I analyze her short story “Nā māro” translated by the author as “Dead End”. As the English version is longer than the original Punjabi, one needs ask: to what extend is the author the sole owner of the text, with a right to change it. The case of Sobti is different—she does not translate her text/s from the original Hindi into other language/s. However, her Hindi prose is so permeated with Punjabi vocabulary and diction that it becomes incomprehensible to a non-Punjabi Hindi reader. Keeping in mind Arundhati Roy’s essay, “What is the Morally Appropriate Language in Which to Think and Write?” (2018), the paper tries to understand the relationship between the text and its audience with author-turned-translator as facilitator of that relationship and with both writers in focus trying to reach their audiences by employing diametrically different strategies: one by domesticating the text, the other—foreignizing it (Venuti 1995).