Since our inception last year, we at The Antonym have been attempting to understand and highlight literary works in translation without which much of our connection to the literature outside our native linguistic circle would remain inaccessible to us. In that way, the foundational idea of “global literature” sits almost inseparably with translated literature. It is to our great pleasure that in its rather brief span of existence, Antonym has been successful in forging a strong network with a powerful community of writers and translators across the globe. A group, much diverse and wider in its skill and expanse of work than we thought would ever be possible for us to reach out to. The Antonym has so far featured works of prose and verse translated to English from more than twenty languages across the world. Just writing this down gives me goosebumps of thrill and a joy far too big for words.
Modern Bengali, one of the ten most spoken languages of today’s world, is an offspring of an amalgamation of ancient Sanskrit, Pali and Magadhi. Since its emergence about thousand years ago, it has flowed, sharing its waters with many other western and Asian (too many to keep count for a non-linguist, really) languages to become the language of more than six million people. Bengali has, to its vast and diverse body, an astonishing gamut of dialects, each shimmering with a wealth of spoken and written literature.
Unfortunately, compared to the volume of literature Bengali has to its name, only a fraction of it has been translated so far. This, along with the fact that most of our team was born in the soils of Bengal and therefore takes Bengali as their first language of love and life, motivated us to look deeper into the translation possibilities. Thankfully, of all the obstacles, dearth of intention is not one. Besides prominent publishers and translators in India and Bangladesh (where Bengali is most used), numerous intellectual and amateur translators have shown great interest in carrying works of caliber in Bengali to other languages, especially in English. Inspired by the enthusiasm of our friends of translation, The Antonym launched The Tagore Award for Translated Fiction 2021 in July. Last week, the entry was closed. We are humbled by the welcome response our first translation competition received from the community of patrons, judges and translators. We would like to use this brief opportunity to thank with all our heart, our sponsors, judges, writers, participants, and volunteers who made it possible.
We are in the process of shortlisting the entries received for the next and final phase of selection.
As per the rules, only three of all the pieces will make the final cut but every day as our team goes through the pieces, short-listing becomes a much harder job than anticipated. We are humbled and appreciate every bit of effort that each one of you have put into selecting the stories and crafting the translations.
Lastly, this competition is only the first of a continuing series. We have started off with a language close to our heart, but we intend soon to move to other language-literatures and translations of their literary wealth for a global community.
If you want to deep-delve into the wonderful art of translation, get some revealing insights from the insiders of the business, we welcome you to spend your reading hour with our interview series on translation.
“A basket full of God’s bones” and the “Strange Art“of Translation
“Windows”: Pondering collaborative translation of Julio Monteiro Martins with Donald Stang and Helen Wickes
Standing on the bridge: The lights, shades and learnings from the craft of Translation: In Conversation with Prof. Arunava Sinha
Love and peace!
Art: Cesare Oliva