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Outside the Monochromatic Frame

Nabanipa Bhattacharjee

By Manoj Kumar Panda . Translated from the Odiya by Snehaprava Das
Speaking Tiger Publications, New Delhi, 2016, pp. 209, Rs. 299.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 9 September 2016

The Man Booker International Prize (MBIP) was awarded this year to Han Kang, a South Korean writer, for her novel The Vegetarians.* The MBIP 2016 attracted global attention not only due to the merit of the novel but also for the fact that it ‘celebrated’, as a MBIP web-post states, ‘the finest global fiction in translation’. Deborah Smith, the English translator of the novel, was thus accorded equal recognition by the MBIP committee: the prize money was evenly shared by them as was the glory. Indeed, as a Literature Across Frontiers report suggests, due to remarkable increase, in the visibility of translated books, and the translators themselves, translated literature (TL) is no longer a niche interest which ‘appeals only to a discerning but limited readership’ (The Guardian, 16 May, 2016). Recent surveys carried out by agencies such as Nielsen show that the global TL market is expanding like never before. India being no exception has also seen a rise in demand for TL or more specifically, Indian Literature in English Translation (ILET). ILET, its long and rich history marked by contributions of the likes of the famous A.K. Ramanujan notwithstanding, always had, due to the predominance of Indian Writing in English, a somewhat small and uneasy presence in the Indian literary scene. But, fortunately, things seem to be changing and ILET is less of a side-player now, thanks to a new generation of competent translators, enthusiastic publishers, and eager readers. This is precisely why writers like Manoj Kumar Panda, who was awarded the Sarala Puraskar for (Odia) Literature in 2015, could find Snehaprava Das, Speaking Tiger Books, and this reader-reviewer to (respectively) translate, publish and read his stories. One Thousand Days in a Refrigerator is a collection of fourteen short stories originally written in Odia, and translated into English by Snehaprava Das. Translation, we are all aware, is an extremely difficult and challenging enterprise. And yet we see translators like Das (or say, Arunava Sinha from West Bengal) boldly take the risk of offering us an ‘authentic’ taste of vernacular literature. The translator’s excellent note on Panda’s postmodern approach, ‘many-faceted symbolism’, structurally experimental style, and above all, engagement with the ever-transforming meaning(s) of the real (pp. 201– 207) contextualizes the stories. They thus present to the readers a ‘thick [and] detailed’ world, to quote Italo Calvino from If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, where the corporeal and the spiritual, fact ...

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