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Jul 27, 2013

Dr. Faustus

Doctor Faustus
In Tudor Dynasty the `most nearly Satanic tragedy that can be found' is Doctor Faustus tells the story of a certain doctor named `Faustus', meaning `auspicious' becomes an avid follower of the Black Magic and his Temptations go unabated as he desires the famous ‘Hellenic Beauty Helen’ for his company which was unusual for Helen had long been dead. Faustus strikes a deal with Mephistophilis “a servant to great Lucipher” that he will give his soul in exchange for A Kiss from Helen;
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.--''[kisses her]''     
Her lips suck forth my soul: see, where it flies!--             
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Mephistophilis explains that Faustus must “buy my service with his soul” by signing a contract:
But Faustus, thou must bequeath it solemnly
And write a deed of gift with thine own blood,
For that security craves great Lucifer.
If thou deny it, I will back to hell.
Subsequently, as Faustus draws blood and prepares to write the contract, Mephistophilis reminds him once more to “Write it in a manner of a deed of gift”. It would seem that this is not a “purchase” at all. As per Lucifer’s deal: “he will spare him four and twenty years, / Letting him live in all voluptuousness,” during which time he will have Mephistophilis as his personal servant “Having thee ever to attend on me”. At the end he will give his soul over to Lucifer as payment and spend the rest of time as one damned to Hell. This deal is to be sealed in Faustus's own blood. After cutting his arm, the wound is divinely healed and the Latin words "Homo, fuge!" (Fly, man!) then appear upon it.
With blank verse and prose, Marlowe sets the story in Wittenburg, Germany with Faustus selling his soul to the devil. At the end of his twenty-four years, Faustus is filled with fear and he becomes remorseful for his past actions, yet this comes too late. Marlowe creates doubt about the freedom of Faustus's will early when Faustus asks the Good Angel if it is too late to repent. The Good Angel replies: "ever too late, if Faustus can repent". The issue is raised again:
What art thou, Faustus, but a man condemn’d t o die?
Thy fatal time doth draw to final end;
When fellow scholars find Faustus the next morning, he is torn limb from limb, with his soul carried off to hell. Moreover, by magnifying his hero's aspirations (never presume to be `great emperor of the world' or strive `to gain a Deity') and sharply curtailing his realization (gains few of his grandiose dreams).
The roots of Doctor Faustus lie deep in the fertile loam of medieval legend. Faustus rejects God, and in doing so, effaces the traditional theological idea that the soul is “on loan” from God, and thus not his to give away. The stories surrounding magicians were typical Magus legends, the hubristic magician, sought to purchase from St Peter the power of the Holy Spirit. St Cyprian, performed many miraculous deeds and was eventually converted, martyred and canonized. Theophilus introduced into the tradition the diabolical blood pact. The entire drama thus occurs within the human psyche. Faustus appreciate Divinity as useless because he feels that all humans commit sin, and thus to have sins punishable by death complicates the logic of Divinity. He dismisses it as "What doctrine call you this? Que sera, sera" (What will be, shall be).
Doctor Faustus adopts and alters the schema of the morality play to its tragic format. The morality plays conclude with the redemption of the often-erring hero, Marlowe's drama ends in a harrowing denouement. Critics suggest that the religious controversies of the period between Catholic/Anglican/Lutheran free will and Calvinist predestination modify the play's morality psychomachia.
The man who earlier exulted, `The emperor shall not live but by my leave', now serves the emperor. In order to make his contract appear less threatening, he convinces himself that hell is only a fable and confounds it in Elysium. When Mephistopheles comes from hell to seize his `glorious soul' Faustus employs fallacious reasoning to convince himself and ignores Mephistophilis’s passionate warning
`to leave these frivolous demands
Which strike a terror in my fainting soul' (I.III.83±84).
Mephistophilis also stress the appearance of Lucifer instead of Christ in answer to Faustus's desperate plea,  `Ah, Christ, my Saviour, | Seek to save distressed Faustus' soul!', which reads, `Help to save distressed Faustus' soul!', as an emblem of the absence of God or Christ and the presence of evil as the controlling force of the play.
Doctor Faustus questions why man is put on the earth. We see in Faustus a man opposing and questioning the order of the cosmos and railing against the confines of human knowledge. While the play shares many of the characteristics of medieval morality plays it cannot be defined solely in this way. Faustus can be seen as a tragic hero who through his thirst for knowledge and his desire to go beyond the accepted wisdom of his time is ultimately destroyed.
Faustus appreciate Divinity as useless because he feels that all humans commit sin, and thus to have sins punishable by death complicates the logic of Divinity. He dismisses it as "What doctrine call you this? Que sera, sera" (What will be, shall be). Marlowe also allows him to confuse opposites and blur distinctions (he sees his necromantic books as ‘heavenly’ and, more damnably, he signs away his soul to Mephistophilis with Christ’s last words on the cross” “Consummatum est,” “It is finished” or “completed.”
“The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,    
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damn’ed”
Here Faustus both clings to his cleverness by quoting, out of context, an amorous line from Ovid “Run slowly, slowly, horses of the night”
Doctor Faustus is a Tamburlaine on the intellectual level; his ambition for the ultimate knowledge; and if knowledge for him means power, the same can be said in some degree of the view implicit in the whole Bocanian tradition” But Faustus is not merely a man who seeks the practical fruit of knowledge: symbolizing in his own behavior the story of the Fall of Man through eating of the tree of knowledge. He had had a less aspiring mind he would have been a better man: less imaginative, less interesting, and less daring, he would also have been more virtuous. In the end of the play he cries:
Adders and Serpants, Let me breath a while      
Ugly hell gape not, come not Lucifer,    
I’ll burn my books,—ah, Mephistophilis.”

Here we have the germ of a truly tragic situation—corruptio optima perrima, the corruption of the best becomes the worst. Marlowe’s real difficulty comes when he has to illustrate the kind of knowledge Faustus has obtained by his compact with Mephistophilis and to present the kind of life he is now able to lead. Marlowe was at loss to illustrate superhuman knowledge and power in concrete dramatic situation. Milton, face with  the problem of putting divine wisdom into the mouth of God say what Milton had already been maintaining for some time; Bernard Shaw, presenting in Back to Methusaleh his Ancients who have achieved a wisdom beyond anything yet available to man, puts into their mouths the views that Shah had been long arguing.

Jul 20, 2013

Pinjer: Amrita Pritma

One of the first voices portraying the pain of Partition was that of Punjabi poet and fiction writer Amrita Pritam. And for a long time the only feminine voice viewing Partition from a woman’s perspective. Chroniclers of the women’s stories of Partition like Urvashi Butalia, Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin were to enter the area nearly four decades later.

What made her first poem after Partition Ajj Akhan Waris Shah Nu… most poignant was the fact that Amrita was eyewitness to the horrors of Partition and also a victim. She was among the thousands who migrated from West Punjab to make their home across the fence. Her two most outstanding works literary works are the Waris Shah poem, penned in winter after the bloody month of August in 1947, and her novel Pinjar,which appeared in the early fifties.

The novel was too radical for its times because the wounds had not yet healed and the communal hatred as still at its peak. Even in those difficult times, Amrita was able to write a novel that saw the situation from the point of view of the other. In fact, it is only recently that a Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar has been able to tell a similar story on celluloid. It is this novel that has brought the ailing 86-year-old writer the La Route des Indes Literary Prize from France for its French translation. Long ago, the novel had been translated by Khushwant Singh and published with the title The Skeleton by Jaico. It was reprinted when Chandra Prakash Dwivedi made it into a feature film in 2002.

Amrita’s partner Imroz says the award came as a surprise because they were unaware of the translation by Denis Matringe. Denis was a French teacher in Lahore who heard someone singing Heer and was inspired to learn Punjabi. He also married a Punjabi girl later. Speaking of this novel, Imroz says: "It was very radical. A Muslim boy abducts a Hindu girl and she chooses to remain with him rather than be rehabilitated in India after Partition. It was a saga of love of a couple thrown in a situation not of their making, but they rise above the situation with love and caring." Imroz reveals that a number of filmmakers toyed with the idea of making a film on it and some contracts were also signed. But each time the project was given up because it was felt that the story would not be palatable to the masses. "It was only when the new century came, did someone dare to film it," Imroz adds.

Amrita is too ill to remark on this surprise award but when Dwivedi’s film was made, she was able to see it at home on a DVD although she was bedridden. I recall her saying, "The most terrible happening of the times was the Partition. I still shiver when I think of those blood-drenched days. I had already spoken of the fate of women in the frenzy in my poetry. After Partition Shahnawaz Khan and Mrinalini Sarabhai were involved in the rehabilitation of abducted girls. I would listen to the stranger than fiction stories that they told me. It was thus that Puro of Pinjar took shape and the novel wrote itself.

Jul 17, 2013

Theatre of Abssurd


Firstly, to substantially answer the question above, it is indeed imperative to present a definition of absurdist theatre by which to draw comparisons from, to successfully evaluate Harold Pinter's The Homecoming as a representative example.

It should initially be brought to the attention of the reader that absurdist theatre in effect does not present a typical definition or strict rules or guidelines from which to conform, for example, a piece of play script to. However, there is an interpretation that has been most famously noted by Martin Esslin in his 'Theatre of the Absurd', from which he puts this term into some context of understanding, influenced from "the French philosopher Albert Camus, in his 'Myth of Sisyphus', written in 1942." (Culik 2000). For example, Esslin in his 'Theatre of the Absurd' comments on the use of the word 'Absurd' describing its original meaning as "'out of harmony' in a musical context." (Worthen 2004 p 907 -10) However, he hones in on Camus' use of the word, which is used in the understanding of absurdist theatre that has a completely different notion behind it. For example, Ionesco defines this notion as, "Absurd is that which is devoid of purpose... Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless." (Worthen 2004 p 907 -10) Thus, the most central theme to Absurdist Theatre is "awareness of this lack of purpose in all we do [and how this] produces a state of metaphysical anguish." (Ray 2005)

Furthermore, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the 'Theatre of the Absurd'; the term essentially coined by Martin Esslin in his critical work, as mentioned above; defines the understanding that "The Theatre of the Absurd strives to express its sense of senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought." (OED 2010) Esslin continues to comment, in his study of 'Theatre of the Absurd', on the "disorientating quality of [the] plays" (Worthen 2004 p 907 -10) that are commonly grouped into the genre of absurd, and how "so many established critics...have condemned the ['absurdist plays'] for [their] lack of plot, development, characterisation, suspense or plain common sense." (Worthen 2004 p 907 -10) Specifically Esslin uses Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot' as an example to demonstrate that those in society that are "unsophisticated enough t o come to the theatre without any preconceived notions and ready-made expectations" (Worthen 2004 p 907 -10) about a performance were thus able to look past the "nonsense or mystification" (Worthen 2004 p 907 -10) of these types of plays and find meaning and understanding in them, rather than their seemingly "impertinent and outrageous imposture" (Worthen 2004 p 907 -10).

In terms of language, the Theatre of the Absurd, "tends toward[s] a radical devaluation of language" (Worthen 2004 p 907 -10), in other words reducing the value of language that logically, plays are so heavily reliant on. However, this is not to say that language is completely disregarded, because in fact it is not, its function is more poignantly used to contradict the action of the character voicing the lines.

In terms of its historical context, Theatre of the Absurd has emanated from the avant-garde movements in art from the period of the 1920s - 30s, originating from Paris. Yet, probably more central to its rise was the traumatic horror experienced from World War II. Furthermore, around this time the beginning of the loss of religious significance and dependence in people's lives highlighted the opposite of purpose and meaning to life, alongside the resonating realisation of the uncertainty of life. As a consequence the Theatre of the Absurd aimed to present an anti- theatre, to reflect as the world was beginning to tear apart, with its moral's, conventions and values, so too must theatre evolve out of its traditionalism and become "surreal, illogical, conflictless and plotless." (Culik 2000). On first appearances Pinter's The Homecoming, seems to fit the theory of the Theatre of the Absurd. It initially presents the reader with an absurd setting, whereby the back wall has been removed. The stage action is juxtaposed against the ridiculous language that seems to be discursive - the character Max, seems to pass aimlessly between subject after subject. It almost satirises how language is the key to communication. However, the dialogue seems ridiculous with the stage action contradicting the words that are said by the characters. For example, Max says to Lenny: "Don't you talk to me like that. Im warning you" (Worthen 2004 p. 764) the understanding of the language implies Max aggressive attitude and embodiment, yet the stage action suggest a complete juxtaposition "(He sits in large arm chair)" (Worthen 2004 p. 764).

Furthermore, the absurd dialogue exchanged by the principle protagonist Max seems to be shocking and the ability to comprehend impossible, thus adhering to the illogical sense instilled in absurdist language. He talks about his wife in a negative and oppressive tone, "it made me sick just to look at her rotten stinking face, she wasn't such a bad bitch." (Worthen 2004 p.764) Lenny's reaction seems to be completely oblivious to his father's statement about his mother. Instead of the words he hears, it's as if he hears irritating noise being expelled from Max's mouth and wants him to be quiet. To add to the absurdity of the two characters we are presented with Max talks about himself in a manner that is bizarre, "your lousy filthy father" (Worthen 2004 p.764). The expression of this senselessness and repetitive discursive trend throughout the whole play creates an incomprehensible illusion that understandably baffles its audiences and readers.

More so, in terms of language, the play adheres to the illogical trend absurdist theatre expresses, through the representation of the characters Teddy and Ruth. They are married, yet Teddy is not fazed in the slightest as his brothers start to have sexual relations with his wife. For example, Lenny says to Joey in front of Teddy, "You didn't get all the way and you've had her up there for two hours!" (Worthen 2004 p782). This ludicrous behaviour stimulates an even more baffling realisation for readers and audiences, as they begin to understand the senselessness of the human condition that Absurdist theatre seeks to express. Furthermore, the incomprehensible expression of language strengthens even more so towards the end of the play. This is where we see the family, excluding Teddy; gravitate towards Teddy's wife Ruth, wanting her to stay in the household. Their objective for her is to turn her into a whore. This may be an act to replace the previous matriarch of the family, Jessie, who was both a mother and a whore. Teddy's distinct separation from the meaning of the dialogue depicts the open abandonment of rational devices, as he decides that it is okay to leave his wife there.

However, in opposition to the statement above, it is easy to see that Pinter's The homecoming does reflect the trends of Absurdist theatre, yet something more new and exciting is emerging that does not just restrict itself to this category/genre. For example, throughout the play we can see the heavy mix of influence from the realist and absurdist genre's that dominate the majority of the play. This juxtaposition reflected in the setting, exposes side by side "everyday domesticity with a subtle undercurrent of animalistic violence" (Gin 2008).

Francis Grin, in his book 'Pinter's Stage, 'A New Genre' argues that if you read Pinter's play without the "already existent framework" (Gin 2008) of realist and absurdist theatre, then you will discover the text for what it truly is, "an entirely new kind of dramaturgy" (Gin 2008). Gin continues to argue that Pinter's play needs "to be looked through an independent framework" (Gin 2008)to discover the unique "'Pinteresque' style of theatre e" (Gin 2008).

In addition Gin's unique insight into this genre, and more specifically Pinter's The Homecoming, allows a more comprehensive understanding to be gained from the seemingly incomprehensible read. For example, Gin clearly see's that "Pinter creates a rhythm and tempo" (Gin 2008) which mimics "the strange patterns of real life dialogue, but allow[ing] the hit home as the spectator fills the Pinteresque pause with their own subjective imagination." (Gin 2008). It is true that the play is fragmented with what seems to be a burdenful amount of pauses. This in itself does not constitute the play being placed into an absurdist category, but more so into Pinter's very own category. As (Bradshaw 2004) states, "The characters' speech, hesitations, and pauses reveal not only their own alienation and the difficulties they have in communicating but also the many layers of meaning that can be contained in even the most innocuous statements." (Bradshaw 2004)

Theatre Critic Molly Flatt, also has an inspiring perspective on Pinter's play that suggests there is much more to the play than just containing it to two genre's of theatre form (absurdist/realist). She describes it as a dark, "funny and recognizable portrait of 1970s masculinity" (Flatt 2008) until another character Teddy the "prodigal son" (Flatt 2008) returns with his wife Ruth, whom disrupts the stage action from "awkward to disconcertingly bizarre." (Flatt 2008) Indeed this is reflective of the theatre of the absurd with its "naturalistic setting and dialogue" (Flatt 2008) infused with the undercurrent of "dim, bleak [domestic] horror" (Flatt 2008). However its surrealism allows us to "[capture] what is great and wacky and wrong and sincere that we understand what is human." (Flatt 2008) As Pinter himself states that there are many truths that seek to "challenge, recoil, reflect, ignore, tease each other [...and so on]" (Flatt 2008) yet we never truly hold truth in our hands for more than a moment. (Flatt 2008)

In conclusion I think that it is clear Pinter is heavily influenced by the avant-garde and absurdist movements, yet his brilliance in making such weird and wonderful plays does not just lie in these genres, but in something that he has truly made unique and as Gin comments completely created an entirely new dramaturgy. Yes it is clear to see the influences of surrealism, realism and absurdist theatre in his work, especially in The Homecoming, but to what extent it is a representative example of Absurdist Theatre, would be to oversimplify Pinter's work. Therefore, after studying the text it would be indecent not to acknowledge the influence of absurdist theatre, but also not to acknowledge Pinter's the homecoming is "ambivalent in [its] plot, presentation of character...but [are also] works of undeniable power and originality." (Bradshaw 2004).


  • Bradshaw, Mike. 2004. Harold Pinter. [Online] (Updated 12th September 2004) Available at: [Accessed 22 January 2010].
  • Dr. Culik, Jan. 2000. The Theatre of the Absurd, The West and the East [Online] Available at: [Accessed 22 January 2010].
  • Flatt, Molly. 2008. The Economist: Surreal Truths in 'The Homecoming'. [Online] (Updated 12th March 2008) Available at: [Accessed 22 January 2010].
  • Gin, Francis. 2008. Pinter's Stage - A New Genre of Theatre. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 22 January 2010].
  • Ed. Ray, Mohit K. Studies in Literature in English, Volume 10. India: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors. 2005.
  • Worthen, W.B. The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama Fourth Edition. London: Cengage Learning EMEA. 2004.
  •, Oxford University Press, 1989. [Accessed 22 January 2010].

Jul 15, 2013

Translation And Its Role In Indian Literature

Questions such as, ‘what is translation…wherein lies its complexity?’ have been asked ever since literature stopped being restricted to one target readership and moved beyond the boundaries of language. The term translation technically connotes the art of recomposing a work in another language without losing its original flavour, or of finding an analogous substitute.

Its complexity lies in it being like the transfer of perfume from one bottle to another. As careful as you are, some fragrance is lost but the challenge remains to capture the essence. All things in nature are subject to change – and so is all cultural matter. Translation is always a shift, not between two languages but between the two types of cultural matter.

India is a linguistic galaxy of unparalleled richness. Few contexts could be better suited than the Indian for a discussion of the processes of translation within a spectacular stellar setting. How does one common ‘idea of India’ make itself available to a Bengali, Tamil or a Marathi in any way save that of translation? Translation provides a cognitive map of India’s linguistic world in all its interrelatedness as well as estrangement. All texts and all readers are both monolingual and multilingual. A text, obviously written literally in one language in a given manifestation faces a multi lingual reader and thus reaches out to a much larger base, unifying experiences and opinions as it expands.

English has to be admitted as a vast reservoir of translation in contemporary India. It may no longer be a colonial language, but it is increasingly a conduit language. This ‘filter language’, as Khubchandani terms it, has today a certain inescapable presence. More English translating have been published in India in recent times than ever before, but our awareness of the need to ensure quality in translation has not heightened the same extent. Who should judge a translation – somebody who can read the original or somebody who cannot? A person who was able to read the language, and enjoyed the original may find no translation satisfactory, whereas someone who cannot is likely to regard readability in English is the prime requisite. It seems unarguable that the only way in which the ideology of ‘unity’ can be explored in a multilingual society like ours is by accepting both the need for, and the problems of, translation.



The Sanskritised term we currently use for ‘translation’ in many Indian languages is anuvada – which literally means ‘after speech’ so it seems wrong in the first place to discuss it in an ‘Introduction’. It also stands in contrast to anukaran, which implies aping or slavish imitation, but there ought to be a more to the word than just the suggestion that it could involve creative license of a kind?


Any discussion of translation leads automatically to the question: who is an ideal translator? The writer himself, or someone who has not been involved in the primary creative art? The task of the translator is to unfreeze the shapes that thought took in one language and refreeze them into another. A translator must take into account rules that are not strictly linguistic but cultural. Translators, even when trying to give us the flavor of the language, are in fact modernizing the source. As far as translators in India are concerned, most Indians who grow up in urban conditions and go to school and college tackle shifts from one language to another so often and so comfortably that translation seems second nature to them.



The Pedagogy of Translation by Vanamala Viswanatha
Translation Studies is a young discipline still in the process of mapping its territory. Attempts have been made to define its boundaries and develop its terrain by scholars working in disciplines as varied as Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Culture Studies, Linguistics and Literary Theory.

Viewing translation as a transaction between two languages, the dominant linguistic paradigm has treated it merely as a matter of transfer from the Source Language to the Target Language.
There can be two ways of translating: Transliteration and Transcreation.

Transliteration or literal translation is word-to-word, phrase-to-phrase or sentence-to-sentence carrying over from the Source Text into the Target Text. This means that the words and terminologies would either require exact equivalents in the Target Language or would have to be put as it is into the Target Text. It may be ideal for texts falling under technical registers. But they would prove extremely difficult when done on cultural texts. The aim of the translation is to reproduce meanings of the Source Text and the immediate effect it produces on the native audience for the readers and audience of another culture in whose language the text is to be translated. But, say, every Hindi word cannot have a counterpart in English because of its vast language and cultural differences in certain connotations and structures. Hence, the ‘literal’ translation of cultural/literary works would be like forsaking the duty of a translator.


On the other hand, transcreation or cultural translation means a partial or complete freedom to the translator in dealing with the Source Text. The translator has to render the Source Text in a recreated form in the Target Language. It involves reading every word and sentence carefully, but it is not only or simply a literal rendering.


Another step in translation is termed as ‘Transfer’. It is the stage in which the analysed material is transferred in the mind of the translator from the Source Text to the Target Text. The final stage is ‘restructuring’ the transferred material. The basic structural elements have to be transferred to the Target Language. It has to be ensured in the process of transformation that the same effect the Source Text had should be achieved for the Target Text for its readers. When the translation produces the same effect as on the original audience then the translation can be considered equivalent to the Source Text.

The translator has to deal with the problem of finding equivalent words and expressions in the Target Language, which though cannot be substitutes for the expressions in the Source Language, but can come close to it, can raise similar feelings and attitudes in the readers and audiences of the Target Text.

Literary and cultural texts suggest rather than describe meanings. Cultural meanings are very specific and their connotations vary with words in other languages. Therefore, it is really difficult to expect equivalence between the texts of two languages separated by two different cultures. The translator has to interpret and analyse the connotative and suggestive of the Source Text and on the basis of his knowledge of the culture of the Target Text; he has to recreate the meanings in the new language.

Figures of speech, extended metaphors, idioms, proverbs and allegories pose a great challenge to the translator. Even translating dialogues, forms of dressing, different kinds of food can be difficult when it has strong cultural roots. For example, words like ‘saree’, ‘churidar’, ‘pan’, ‘pallu’ cannot have an English counterpart. In India, there is a specific word for every familial relationship. For instance, ‘chacha’, ‘mama’, ‘phupha’, ‘tauji’ are all called ‘uncle’ in English, similarly ‘nana-nani’ and ‘dada-dadi’  are simply ‘grandparents’. Also, the suggested meanings of these relationships can never be translated into any other language.


To show how the differences in cultural facts can cause difficulties in the translation of metaphors we may look at the symbolic meanings of certain words in different cultures. ‘Owl’ in English is the symbol of wisdom whereas it symbolizes ‘ill-fortune’ in Persian and is associated to superstitious beliefs in India. Also, ‘pig’, ‘hog’ and ‘swine’ are different words for the same animal but these small variations can create big differences in metaphorical meanings:

Sam is a pig.
Sam is a hog.
Sam is a swine.

The languages which do not have separate words for these different categories would fail to represent the difference between the discoursal value of the above metaphors. Thus, a literal translation may lead to Target Language metaphors with different and sometimes completely opposite discoursal values. 



We are now going to talk about a few writers who have brought out very vividly the different cultures of India through their writing in vernacular languages. The languages we are going to focus upon are Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Bengali, Assamese, Tamil and Kannada. It is the voice of this marginalized section writing in vernacular languages, especially of the women regional writers, which needs to be heard. This is possible only through translation, which gives them recognition all over the world.


Tagore was the first Indian Nobel Laureate. He won the Nobel Prize for his translation of the Gitanjali.

His best known works are Gora and Ghare Baire. His works – verse, short stories and novels – are acclaimed for their lyricism, colloquialism, naturalism and contemplation. Of Tagore’s prose, his short stories are perhaps most highly regarded indeed he is credited with originating the Bengali language version of the genre. His short stories mostly borrow from the deceptively simple subject matter: common people. The translation of his works into various languages has given people across cultures a glimpse of the world of the Bengali common man.
Given below is Robi Dutta’s translation of his poem ‘Urvashi’:

No mother thou, no daughter thou
Thou art no bride,
O maiden fair and free
O inhabitant of Nandan


Sampooran Singh Kalra better known as Gulzar is an Indian poet, lyricist and director. Gulzar primarily works in Hindi-Urdu and also works in Punjabi, several dialects of Hindi like braj bhasha, khadi boli, Haryanvi and Marwari. Gulzar has received many awards including the Padma Bhushan and the Academy Award for his song "Jai Ho".

He has been widely translated into English and other languages. During the Jaipur Literary Festival, Pawan Varma, an eminent IFS officer who has translated Gulzar’s poetry, said that he faced a difficulty translating phrases like ‘tip tip’ and ‘tap tap’ and Gulzar replied “abhi to humne kabutar ki gutar goon shuru bhi nahi ki hai”.

Sunjoy Shekhar, who has also translated Gulzar calls himself a “smuggler trying to surreptitiously smuggle the feelings evoked by Gulzar’s lyrics across an impermissible, alien wordscape.” To give a flavor of the translation of his poetry, given below is a song of his along with its translation:


basa cand kraoD,aoM saalaaoM maoM
saUrja kI Aaga bauJaogaI jaba
AaOr rak, ]D,ogaI saUrja sao
jaba kao[- caaMd na DUbaogaa
AaOr kao[- ja,maIM na ]BarogaI
tba zMDa bauJaa [k kaoyalaa saa
TukD,a yao ja,maIM ka GaUmaogaa
BaTka BaTka
mawma Kiksa~I raoSanaI maoM
maOM saaocata hUM ]sa va@t
Aga,r kaga,ja, po ilaKI hu[- naj,ma
khIM ]D,to ]D,to saUrja maoM igaro
tao saUrja ifr saoo jalanao lagao


In a billion years when
The sun’s fire dwindles
And ash blows across its surface
Then the moon will no longer wane
And the land not rise
When like a cold, burnt out piece of coal
This earth revolves
Lost in its gyre
Trailing a dying, sepia glow
I think then
If a poem written on a piece of paper was to waft along
And perchance land on the sun
The sun would ignite again.


C. S. Lakshmi was born in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu in 1944. Some of her works - A Purple Sea and In A Forest, A Deer (2006) - have been translated English by Lakshmi Holmström. In 2006, she (along with Lakshmi Holmström) won the Vodafone-Crossword prize. For her contributions to Tamil literature, she received the 2008 Iyal Virudhu. Her work is characterized by her feminism, an eye for detail, and a sense of irony. Exploration of space, silence, coming to terms with one's body or sexuality, and the importance of communication are some of the recurring themes in her works.


Vijaydan Detha also known as Bijji is a noted writer from Rajasthan and a recipient of Padma Shri award(2007). He has also received several other awards such as Sahitya Akademi Award and Sahitya Chudamani Award.

He has more than 800 short stories to his credit, which are translated into English and other languages. He is co-founder of Rupayan Sansthan with late Komal Kothari, an institute that documents Rajasthani folk-lore, arts and music. His literary works include Bataan ri Phulwari (garden of tales), a fourteen volume collection of stories that draws on folk-lore and spoken dialects of Rajasthan. His stories and novels have been adapted for many plays and movies including Habib Tanvir's Charandas Chor and Amol Palekar’s Paheli.

He once said "If you do not want to be a mediocre writer, you should return to your village and write in Rajasthani."



Born in 1968 in Tamil Nadu, Salma’s first poetry collection shocked conservative society where women are supposed to remain silent. In 2003, Salma along with three other Tamil women poets faced obscenity charges and violent threats. Salma is now head of the panchayat (local level government body) of Thuvarankurichi, near Trichi in Tamil Nadu. The government of Tamil Nadu has appointed her Chairperson of the Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board. 

Her novel, translated as Midnight Tales focuses on the inner world of Muslim women in the conservative society of Tamil Nadu in south India. It gives us an insight into what actually goes on in the households of this section of the society and brings it out very effectively. The novel was also long-listed for the Man Asian Prize of 2007.


Translating these texts into more widely spoken languages like Hindi and English has taken their voice to a much wider range of readers.

Jul 13, 2013

Tughlaq: Karnard

Karnard’s Tughlaq
“The whirlpool of violence and bloodshed” called, Tughlaq, is based on “the life of Muhammad Tughlaq, a fourteenth century Sultan of Delhi,” the most infamous Mughal emperor who thinks himself as “I was too soft, I can see that now. They’ll understand the whip.” According to Karnad, Sultan Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was “Certainly the most brilliant individual ever to ascend the throne of Delhi and also one of the biggest failures.”. Initially, Tughlaq was  “A man with unshakable faith in himself and his mission, trying to out- reach his own vision, unfortunately with his bare hands.”
“A Faithful slave of the Lord” or Tughlaq is a learned, intelligent Sultan of a vast country, India. He has become a victim of passion though all the characters admit that he is not a common man. His step–mother reveals to Barani that “… he is such an intelligent boy”; Sheikh Imam–ud–din, the saint admits:” God has given you everything–power, learning, intelligence, talent.”  Barani, the sensible man, says,
“But you are a learned man, Your majesty, you are known the world over for your knowledge of philosophy and poetry”
But the irony is that such a high and mighty personality has failed to control his passions. He himself gets puzzled as to what has happened to him. He himself reviews, ponders and reveals his tragic tale thus:
“I started in Your path, Lord! why am I wandering naked in the desert now? I started in search of You. Why am I become a pig rolling in this gory mud” .
Through his failures, the Sultan is elevated to a man of wisdom and maturity and this becomes evident when he says to the historian Barani as follows:
“But I am not alone, Barani, Thank heaven! For once I am not alone. I have a Companion to share my madness now – the omnipotent God.”
This “Intelligent, religious, cruel and hard hearted” unsuccessful Islamic or “Mad Muhammad” in the opening scene declares, “I shall build an empire which will be the envy of world.” Acutely aware of the short span of life and the stupendous task before him, like Ashoka the great, he seems to dedicate his life for the well-being of his subjects. He keeps awake during nights and tells his stepmother
“Tell me, how dare I waste my time in sleeping? And don’t tell me to go and get married and breed a family because I won’t sleep.”
He wants to climb the tallest of the trees in the world and call out to his people:
Come my people, I am waiting for you. Confide in me your worries. Let me share your joys. Let’s laugh and cry together.”
The King appears as a “carnivorous animal” and unlike other rulers, he wanted to be an ideal King and thinks “whatever he does is perfect” and foolishly announces, “Later this year the capital of my empire will be moved from Delhi to Daulatabad” and orders “Everyone must leave… Nothing but an empty graveyard of Delhi will satisfy me now.” By shifting his capital to the city of the Hindus, he hopes to win the confidence of the Hindus and help foster the Hindu-Muslim unity.
The cruelties of the Sultan find no end. When he comes to know of his stepmother’s killing of the Najib, he mercilessly orders “I want her stoned to death publicly tomorrow morning”. When his stepmother taunts him for killing his father, brother and Sheikh, Tughlaq claims that he has killed them for an ideal. He himself says, “I killed them–yes–but killed them for an ideal” because “They gave me what I wanted power, strength to shape my thoughts, strength to act, strength to recognize myself.”
Tughlaq desecrates prayer by using it as a means for political ends. At first he decrees religious punishment for failure to pray five times a day. Later, he bans prayer itself and punishes those who pray. Again, after sometime, he announces that “henceforth every Muslim will pray five times a day as enjoined by the Holy Koran and declare himself a Faithful slave of the Lord.” Later on towards the end, he admits his mistake and the wisest fool in the empire that he has become, he cries for God’s help:
God, God in Heaven, please help me. Please don’t let go off my hand. My skin drips with blood and I don’t know how much of it is mine and how much of others…. Clean me; cover me with Your Infinite Mercy.
The handling of the theme suggests that it transcends Muhammad Tughlaq of a specific period and encompasses men of all times. Ultimately the message conveyed by the dramatist is that God alone is the Supreme Being and not man:
Alla – Ho – Akbar! Alla – Ho – Akbar!      
Ashahado La Elaha Illilah.

Tughlaq has become the classic of the contemporary age through this eponymous and enigmatic character, the doomed dreamer, very well resembles Martin Luther King whose dreams were also shattered by destiny. Like Marlowe’s heroes namely, Tamburlaine, Doctor Faustus and Jew of Malta, Tughlaq, like a megalomaniac, is fully convinced that he alone knows what is good for others and he alone is capable of achieving it for them. The play greatly appealed to the Indian audience because it reflected the political mood of disillusionment, which prevailed in the Nehru era of idealism in the country. 

Jul 10, 2013

An Essay of Dramatick Poesie: Dryden

“My whole discourse was skeptical … You see it is a dialogue sustained by persons of several opinions, all of them left doubtful, to be determined by the readers in general.” Dryden in Defense of An Essay.
John Dryden whom Walter Scott named "Glorious John" writes Essay of Dramatic Poesy or An Essay of Dramatick Poesie  (1668) which is, "the most elaborate and one of the most attractive and lively" of his works. As his combatants dispute the relative merits of Ancient and Modern drama, of English and French theatrical practice, Dryden conjures up echoes of the Platonic dialogue “A thing well said will be wit in all languages.”
According to Crites, ‘Ben Jonson as the greatest English playwright followed the ancients’ heritage by referring to the unities.
‘‘… he loved their fashion when he wore their clothes…’’
The speakers actually contrast Ben Jonson who wrote regular plays and also obeyed all the Classical rules, with William Shakespeare who broke these dramatic rules and unities with great abandon:
 “He invades authors like a monarch; and what would be theft in other poets is only victory in him.”
Eugenius, as his counterpart favors the moderns over the ancients, arguing that the moderns exceed the ancients because of having learned and profited from their example. Unlike the ancients, moderns have the chance of benefiting from the works of elder generations. In order to surpass the ancients, something should be added to what was learned from them. So, moderns are greater poets and superior to the ancients.
Crites interrupts Eugenius saying that they can not come to an agreement. Because, Crites believes that the moderns do not create something new but just changing the appearance. He concludes the debate:
“the ancients should be accepted as the masters today and in the future as well.”
Another debate starts between Eugenius and Lisideius on French Drama vs. English Drama then Neander also comes to the stage sharing his ideas as well. Eugenius favors English Drama and accepts it superior to the French Drama. However, Lisideius who glorifies French plays, replies by saying that French Drama is superior to the English and also any other European Drama. He supports himself by accepting the French Drama as the most strictly faithful one to the Aristotle’s three unities:
‘‘There is no theater in the world has anything so absurd as the English tragicomedy…in two hours and a half, we run through all the fits of Bedlam’.
Lisideius defines it as ‘‘unnatural mixture of comedy and tragedy’’. Shakespeare’s plays’ consisting of both a plot and a sub plot is also a default according to Lisideius.
“Some actions which should be done behind the scene such as a battle or a murder which English Drama lacks and causes turmoil on the scene.”
 And he finishes “none of the French plays end with any unbelievable conversions.
Neander goes on to defend English Drama and tragicomedy. According to him, tragicomedy increases the effectiveness of both tragic and comic elements by way of contrast. He then criticizes French Drama especially for its shallowness: consisting of only one plot without sub plots; showing to the audience too little action but too many words, shortly, its narrowness of imagination. And these are all qualities which makes it inferior to the English Drama.
Neander extends his criticism of French Drama by reasoning for his preference of Shakespeare over Ben Jonson.
Shakespeare has ‘‘the largest and most comprehensive soul’’ while Jonson is ‘‘the most learned and judicious writer which any theater ever had’’.
Moreover, Neander prefers Shakespeare for his greater faithfulness to the life while Jonson has a French/Classical tendency to deal with the ‘beauties of a statue, but not of man’.
‘‘If I would compare him with Shakespeare, I must acknowledge him the more correct poet, but Shakespeare the greater wit. Shakespeare was the Homer, or father of our Dramatick Poets; Jonson was the Virgil, the pattern of elaborate writing; I admire him but I love Shakespeare’’.
The last debate takes its start by Crites’ objecting to rhyme in plays. ‘
‘Rhyme is incapable of expressing the greatest thought naturally, and the lowest it can not with any grace’’
According to him, no man speaks in rhyme, and if the stage is reflection of the real life, then why he ought to do it on the stage. He supports his objection by citing from Aristotle as saying
‘‘plays should be writ in that kind of verse which is nearest prose.’’
He uses it as a justification for banishing rhyme from drama in favor of blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter).
Three versions of classicism have held the stage, but Neander’s deferential conclusions have persuasively illuminated Dryden’s true ambition: a vindication of English drama. It is one which will pay sufficient respect to the rules, but which will be generous enough to accommodate the wilder genius of a Shakespeare who
“when he describes any thing, you more than see it, you feel it too.”
What pleased the Greeks may not satisfy the English taste. In this respect he is more liberal than Sidney or Ben Jonson or any of the continental neo-classical critics.
Another merit of the Essay pointed out by Professor Saintsbury is that it demonstrates Dryden's scholarship, wide reading and originality. Though Dryden confessed later in his Defence of an Essay that the Essay of Dramatic Poesy was ' for the most part borrowed from the observations of others', yet the borrowed ideas neither detract from nor add up to the sum of its achievement.

Before going deep into the essay, please read this para first.
The treatise is a dialogue between four speakers:
  1. Eugenius was Sir William Davenant [Dryden's "ingenious" collaborator on their revision of The Tempest],
  2. Crites  was Sir Robert Howard [playwright and Dryden's brother-in-law],
  3. Lisideius  was the earl of Orrery [Roger Boyle, author of the first heroic play in rhymed couplets],
  4. Neander was Dryden himself (Neander means "new man" and implies that Dryden, as a respected member of the gentry class, is entitled to join in this dialogue on an equal footing with the three older men who are his social superiors).

On the day that the English fleet encounters the Dutch at sea near the mouth of the Thames, the four friends take a barge downriver towards the noise from the battle.

Jul 8, 2013

Leight Hunt on Periodical Essay

I look upon a periodical essayist as a writer who claims a peculiar intimacy with the public. He does not come upon them at once in all the majesty of a quarto or all the gaiety of a beau duodecimo,’ smooth and well dressed: but his acquaintance is likely to be more lasting, because it is more gradual and because you see him in a greater variety of subject and opinion. If you do not like him at first you may give up his conversation; but the author of a book is fixed upon you forever, and if he cannot entertain you beyond the moment, you must even give him sleeping room in your library. But how many pleasant modes are there of getting rid of a periodical essay? It may assist your meditation by lighting your pipe, it may give steadiness to your candle, it may curl the tresses of your daughter or your sister, or lastly, if you are not rich enough to possess an urn or a cloth-holder, it may save you a world of opodeldoc* by wrapping the handle of your tea-kettle. These are advantages.

The title of my essays may perhaps alarm some of my friends with its magnificence, and the repetition of the name Examiner may annoy others with its monotony. But with respect to the later objection, I regard the various departments of this paper as children of the same family, and therefore though of different professions they all have the same surname: A gentleman of the name of Simkins for instance has three sons, one a politician, another a theatrical critic, and the third a philosopher; a person sees these three honest men and points them out to his friend, That is Mr. Simkins the politician, with the black hair; the next to him, a thin man, Mr. Simkins the critic; the other, pale-faced gentleman, is Mr. Simkins the philosopher.’ Just so I have my Political Examiner, my Theatrical Examiner, and my Literary and Philosophical Examiner. As to the epithet literary, it is no very boastful title when every editor of a newspaper claims the palm of authorship; and with respect to the title of philosopher, it means nothing more in its original sense than a Lover of Wisdom, and my readers must confess, that it would be a most unpardonable rudeness in any person to come with his objections between me and my mistress. (I put the lady last for the sake of climax.)

A Philosopher in fact, or in other words a Lover of Wisdom, claims no more merit to himself for his title than is claimed by the lover of any other lady; all his praise consists in having discovered her beauty and good sense. He is, like any other submissive swain, a mere machine in her hands. It is his business to echo and to praise every word she says, to doat upon her charms, and to insist to every body he meets that the world would want its sunshine without her.

The age of periodical philosophy is perhaps gone by, but Wisdom is an ever-lasting beauty; and I have the advantage of all the lessons in philosophic gallantry which my predecessors have left behind them. Perhaps I may avoid some of the inelegancies, though I may be hopeless of attaining the general charm of these celebrated men. I shall always endeavor to recollect the consummate ease and gentility with which Addison approached his divine fair one and the passionate earnestness with which he would gaze upon her in the intervals of the most graceful familiarity; but then I must not forget his occasional incorrectness of language and his want of depth, when he attempted to display the critic. Goldsmith, next to Addison, was the favorite who approached Wisdom with the happiest mixture of seriousness and pleasantry; the instant he began to speak, you were prepared for elegance, solidity; and a most natural manner of expression: it must be confessed indeed, that he was infinitely more correct in his general manner than Addison, but it must also be recollected that the latter spoke first and was more original.

Johnson paid his devoirs like one who claimed rather than entreated notice, for he knew his desert; it becomes me to be more humble, and I hope it will be my good fortune to see Wisdom in her cheerful moments a little oftener than the melancholy Rambler; at the same time I must confess that I have not the slightest hope of viewing her so clearly or of venturing half so far within the sphere of her approach. There was a coldness in the obeisance of Hawkesworth, but there was also a thoughtfulness and a dignity: what he spoke was always acknowledged by the circle, but it seldom reached their feelings. Colman and Thornton did not profess sensibility, they were content with a jauntiness and a pleasantry, that ought to have been their ornament rather than their sole merit.

Mackenzie felt the beauty more than the mind of his goddess; he stood rather bashfully behind, and could never venture into her presence without an introduction by some other admirer; but he was full of sensibility, and Wisdom never smiled upon him with such complacency as when his eyes were filled with tears.

If I can persuade the public to hear me after these celebrated men, I shall think myself extremely fortunate;  if I can amuse them with any originality, I shall think myself deserving; if I procure them any moral benefit, I shall think myself most happy. It will be my endeavor to avoid those subjects which have been already handled in periodical works, or at any rate if I should be tempted to use them, I will exert myself to give them a new air and recommendation. .

If I begin with promises however, my reader will begin with suspicion. I wish to make an acquaintance with   him, and I know that it is not customary on your first introduction to a person to tell him how you mean to enchant him in your future connexion. My new acquaintance and I therefore will sit still a little and reconnoitre each other with true English civility.

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