Loss and Gain in Translation: A Study through the Works of Chittaranjan Misra


By Anita Jain

With the gradual erosion of the multilingualism, multiple ways of seeing, speaking and understanding are now available to us only in translation. Translation is a serious affair and a tough job, due to its rigidness with liberty. Thus, a translator should be an honest human, not to manipulate with the original work.
My paper projects the loss and gain with relevance to Misra’s translations which are quite thought provoking and innovative in essence. This paper maps the phases a translator goes in evolution of translation. This research paper highlights the works of Chittaranjan Misra, the renowned editor of an anthology named Crossed words – Contemporary Odia poetry. Dr Chittaranjan Mishra teaches English at B.J.B. Autonomous College, Bhubaneswar (Odisha). He studied at Ravenshaw College, Cuttack (Utkal University) and has a Ph.D. in English from Sambalpur University (1988). He is the author of Harold Pinter: The Dramatist, the first Indian book on Pinter. He has translated 4 Pinter plays into Oriya, published in two volumes. He has also authored five anthologies of poems in Odia and one in English. His Odia book on Literary Theory in the West (2005) is one of his important publications. He has published his poems and papers in European Connections, Indian Literature, Kavya Bharati, Indian Journal of English Studies, Dibrugarh Journal of English Studies, Atlantic Literary Review, Rock Pebbles, Indian Age, e-journals like museindia, writers lifeline and the major journals of Odisha. He has been felicitated by several literary Institutions in Odisha. Misra also has many translation works to his credit such as, Priyatama (Translation of drama), My Dear Kanha (Translation of poetry), Aparichita (Odia translation of Albert Camus’ The Outsider), Ta Piladina (Translation of Novel), and many more.
In his paper Chokepoints in Translation, published in Contemporary Literary Review India, Dr. Misra has beautifully shown the amphibious pursuit as a translator when he says:
“An Amphibian is capable of living and operating on both land and water. Having a double life related to both the worlds, it lives on land and breeds in water. A translator too oscillates between two languages: mother tongue and the other tongue.”
I see him true, as the transition from one to the other is a risky affair and he struggles to give justice to the original work which is not an easy job. This also makes me see translation and movie adaptations as equivalents; where in both the forms when we take ample liberty in the process, the essence of the original is lost.
Translators have generally shown prudent flexibility in seeking equivalents- “literal” where possible, paraphrastic where necessary for the original meaning and other crucial “values” as determined from context. Example worth citing in this context is the very title of Misra’s translation of Albert Camus’s novel the Outsider into Odia; which was not free from problem. To quote Misra:-
“many words in odia are available as synonymous for ‘Outsider’ but not a single one appealed to me to be in coherence with the spirit of the novel. Since the original French title is L’ Etranger (The Stranger) I preferred to go for the odia rendering of ‘stranger’ and entitled the translation as “Aparichita”
Indeed, translators have helped substantially to shape the languages into which they have translated. When a target language has lacked terms that are found in a source language, translators have borrowed those terms, thereby enriching the target language. The translator’s role as a bridge for “carrying across” values between cultures has been discussed at least since Terence, the 2nd century-BCE Roman adapter of Greek comedy, which still continues to this day.
The Scottish historian Alexander Tytler, in his essay On the Principles of Translation (1790), emphasised that assiduous reading is a more comprehensive guide to a language than are dictionaries.
The problem might be more comprehensively addressed by citing another example from Misra’s experience of translating an English text in Odia- where in the first paragraph of The Outsider in which Mearsault received the telegram about the death of his mother comes from ‘home’. Home is not home in the usual sense but “the home”-an old age home where the mother had to stay.
Hence, familiarity with the subject matter of the text being translated is a major concern for the translator.
Dryden observed that “Translation is a type of drawing after life…” comparison of the translator with a musician or actor goes back at least to Samuel Johnson’s remark about Alexander Pope playing Homer on a flageolet, while Homer himself used a bassoon.
The translator of the Bible into German, Martin Luther (1483-1546), is credited with being the first European to posit that one translates satisfactorily only toward his own language. L.G. Kelly states that since Johann Gottfried Herder in the 18th century “it has been axiomatic” that one translates only toward his own language. Misra on this context says “for me reading English and writing into Odia is a subjective choice.”
The present research draws upon mainly primary sources where we can see the translations of Dr. Misra are quite unique and realistic to the present time. He has excelled in his translations and it is through the lens of a translator that the readers can sight the damage that occurs in the process of translation. Inspite of the loss in the transfer of thoughts in translation, the relevant thought process in translation should continue. Translators do not merely translate words or languages, in fact, they translate ideas. Thus the quest for identical identities-having relevant properties in another language is a bedded project. Translation presupposes structural changes and such structural differences are bound to occur. It is the translator who explains, retains or avoids the meaning to own the gain which is certainly assured.