Towards a Monolingual World: Indian English Fiction and Translations in India

Towards a Monolingual World: Indian English Fiction and Translations in India

Sanju Thomas (Ambedkar University Delhi, India)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2832-6.ch002


The chapter looks into the existing language equation in India through a literary lens. Even though the number of translations from other Indian languages to English has increased, in the national and international market Indian English fiction has come to represent Indian fiction. This complexity is due to the growing status of English in globalized India, which is also reflected in the popularity of Indian English fiction. However, a historical analysis would reveal that the rise of Indian English fiction is a postcolonial phenomenon and this has been at the expense of translations. The chapter substantiates this cultural evolution further through a study of the Malayalam translation of the Indian English novel The God of Small Things and the English translation of the Malayalam novel Chemmeen. The translation strategies and iconography of the book covers are analyzed to discuss the existing equation between English and other Indian languages.
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Indian English fiction, which began to take shape in the late 19th century, was not considered superior to Indian language fiction. Writers such as Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Madhusudan Dutt started their literary careers as Indian English writers and later turned to their own mother tongue. In fact, the first Indian English novel, Rajmohan’s Wife (1864) was written by Bankim Chandra. The 1930s and 40s are considered to be the take off period of Indian English fiction with writers such as Raja Rao (1908-2006), Mulk Raj Anand (1905-2004), R.K. Narayan (1906-2001) and Bhabani Bhattacharya (1910-1988) displaying a keen interest in the politico-social life of the nation. Writers such as Mulk Raj Anand and Ahmed Ali were also part of Progressive Writers’ Movement3. They were Indian born, Indian-grown authors, and their English, an acquired language of a translator's (see Prasad, 1999, pp. 41-58). However, the bhasha literatures, i.e. literatures written in other Indian languages, were energized by writers who were informed by the literary movements of the West but who could reinvent their knowledge in the backdrop of their own locales that they knew well and identified with, the regional language and its variants being very much a part of their identity. Thus Basheer4, for example, wrote in the rural Muslim dialect that never failed to touch a chord with the masses. The Indian English writers lacked this strong mass support since they had no regional identity and largely remained the poor cousins of other Indian language literatures.

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