Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Translating the essence Abid Ahmad's translation of select Urdu poems of Shiekh Khalid Karrar is a treat to read

Translating the essence
Abid Ahmad's translation of select Urdu poems of Shiekh Khalid Karrar is a treat to read

It is my considered view that in choosing to translate 57 select poems of the contemporary Urdu poet Shiekh Khalid Karrar into English, Abid Ahmad has taken up a challenging task that he has accomplished successfully. In providing his own foreword to the volume of the translated poems, which in fact serves as a fine critical introduction to the Urdu poet as well, he convinces the reader of having assimilated the cultural content of the original poems. It is gratifying further that Abid is well aware of the developments in literary theory across the globe in relation to what is specifically traditional, modernist and postmodernist about literature. Not being myself very conversant with Urdu literature nor having gone through a single original  poem of Karrar, I have a special word of praise for Abid for rendering the Urdu poet accessible to me as a reader through his critical observations on him in the foreword.
            How precisely do I rate Abid Ahmad’s translation? I have no hesitation in saying that the translated pieces in English stand out as original poems in English. I may have some curiosity lurking in my mind about Karrar as the source /original poet, but I enjoyed Abid’s renditions as poetry in its own right. Reading most of the poems in English translation closely, I find them “difficult” as Eliot would have it. He is of the view that good poems are enjoyed before they are understood. Abid’s translations convince me of his creativity as rooted in his originality.
            It is pertinent to state here that in recent years translation studies have gained special prestige in the Indian Universities. In some Universities in the country, higher degrees are being awarded on the basis of good translational work, in lieu of research. In fact, English as a link-language has assumed an important role; it is equally important for out cultural expansion across the globe. In consequence, literary translation from various regional languages into English has received a special impetus at the national level. Such translation, in my view, is in itself an art rather than a mere craft - though an art with a difference. The translator has to work within some constraints; he cannot have all the freedom of a creative artist. The task becomes all the more difficult when it is poems that are to be rendered into English. Desirably the translator should be in full command of the source language and equally competent in handling the target language. He should as well be conversant with the related literatures. In other words, he has got to be both bilingual and bicultural in order to accomplish a difficult task. The translation should be literary rather than literal; it should be somehow faithful to the text and desirably “free” or creative in some degree too. Judged from this point of view, I find Abid’s English translations readable, imaginably faithful, and at the same time, literary and creative. It strikes me as well that there is no mismatch between the Urdu poet Karrar and Abid as the translator.
            Finally, to give the readers a slice/foretaste of the volume in question, I quote, as an example, the poem “I am not at peace” hereunder:

I am not at peace.
The sand
Settled for thousands of years
Is stirred up
With hooves of
Pacing steed.
Fleets of ship float on sea
Flags flutter on deck
Noise and mayhem rend heavens asunder
Ramparts fall
Saddles tumble down
The fortified city is afire
Lines are drawn
Bugles blown
Iron gates opened
Sand, soldiers, city, masses, smoke
Of thousands of years
Is flowing within me.

            Image after image is thrown up by the poet here to evoke disorders, destruction and conflict – all anti-thetical to peace. As the reader goes through the poem closely, he can perceive the inwardness of all the details piled up. He can well appreciate that the poet is aware of a history of thousands of years of trouble. The lines are suggestive of war and conflict – of a deep inward commotion holding the poet in its grip. The title of the poem is appropriate to the contents.
            Likewise, the poem titled “Meaning” is, to my mind, postmodernist in theme – suggestive of “indeterminacy” of meaning:

I mean I
I am what I wasn’t
I am what I’m somewhere
Am I not what I was
And what I would be?
I mean I
I’m the one who had hit me
I’m that who had paid me blood money
You are somewhere
I’m not
I’m what is
But what’s not
 I don’t know
 If I am
 I’m not
I was somewhere
I am the meaning
I’m the meaninglessness.

  Drawn to Abid Ahmad’s writings as a budding scholar of English, I perceive in him a writer of immense promise and potential. He is surely going to make a mark nationally and, hopefully, internationally too.
            A welcome and enjoyable volume of translations, indeed.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 25 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Mecca time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 25 Oct 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Oct 2011 00:00:00 IST

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