The first Kannada novel, Indira Bai or The Triumph of Truth and Virtue, has been recently translated into English, for the second time, by Vanamala Viswanatha and Shivarama Padikkal. Originally published by the Basel Mission Press, Mangalore, in 1899, the novel was first translated into English in 1903 by ME Couchman, the Collector of South Canara. The new translation is especially notable for two reasons. First, it succeeds in preventing the English translation from becoming opaque to the multi-lingual social registers embedded in the original Kannada novel. Since the use of five different languages in the Kannada novel marks out the hierarchies of caste and class in the social world from which the novel emerged and indicates the intersections and overlapping of different epistemological worlds, the success of the translators in making this overt in the English translation is laudable. Secondly, through the extensive and appropriate use of footnotes which provide glossary and reference for concepts embedded in the indigenous life world, titles that signify socially specific status positions, terms denoting caste practices which do not have an English equivalent, the translators succeed in the project of translating across languages, a historically specific cross section of a socio-cultural world in all its dense materiality.
August 2020, volume 44, No 8