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Articles: Literature
Telugu Fiction in...
- Dr. Rajeshwar Mittapalli
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English Translation of Telugu Fiction: Current Scenario The publication of Kandukuri Veeresalingam Panthulu’s Rajashekhara Charitra in 1878 marked the beginning of Telugu fiction. Eversince, hundreds and thousands of novels and short stories have appeared. Great masters like Unnava Lakshminarayana, Viswanatha Satyanarayana, Chalam, Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao, Gopichand, Dasarathi Rangacharya, Rachakonda Viswanatha Sastri, Naveen and Vasireddy Sita Devi have made enormous contribution Telugu fiction. Some of the novels written by them and others merit comparison with the very best of world fiction. But these works have remained unknown to the world outside Andhra Pradesh primarily because of their non-availability in English translation. According to the statistics available to me just about a dozen Telugu novels have been translated into English so far. These include: Veerasalingam Panthulu’s Fortune’s Wheel: A Tale of Hindu Domestic Life (Rajashekhara Charitra) translated by J. Robert Hutchinson, Dr. Kesava Reddy’s He Conquered the Jungle (Athadu Adavini Jayinchadu) translated by C.L.L. Jayaprada, G.V. Krishna Rao’s Puppets (Keelubommalu) translated by D. Kesava Rao, Vasireddy Sita Devi’s The Burning Moonlight (Mandutunna Vennela) translated by D. Ramalingam, Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao’s Sundaram Learns (Chaduvu) translated by V.V.B. Rama Rao, Dasarati Rangcharya’s The Lesser Deities (Chillara Devullu) translated by Chakravarthi Seshacharya, Ra.Vi.Sastri’s A Man of No Consequence (Alpajeevi) translated by Achanta Janakiram, Naveen’s Bed of Thorns (Ampasayya) translated by D. Ranga Rao and Dark Days (Cheekati Rojulu) translated by K. Jagadeshwar Rao and Naveen, and R.S. Sudarshanam’s Tree of Life (Samsaara Vriksham) translated by the author himself. Some of these translations have been possible only because of the encouragement of publishing houses like Macmillan and Government institutions like the Sahitya Akademi and the Telugu University. The short fiction scene is equally depressing. At the most, we have about a dozen collections and anthologies of short stories available in English translation. Among them are: Alladi Uma and Shridhar’s Women Unbound (by Volga), and Ayoni and Other Stories, Ranga Rao’s Classic Telugu Short Stories, Patanjali and Muralidhar’s Modern Telugu Short Stories, M.V. Sastry’s A Generation of Telugu Short Stories and my own Lifescapes: Telugu Short Stories by Naveen. Lovers of Telugu fiction are very likely to be disturbed by these statistics. The paucity of translations of Telugu fictional works into English is not difficult to explain. The first and foremost reason is that there are not many competent translators in Andhra Pradesh and those that are competent do not feel greatly encouraged to take to translation. There are scores of novelists and short story writers but there are very few translators. The ratio of writers and translators is overwhelmingly adverse to the translators. These few translators too are mainly from the university English departments and translation is more of a hobby, a ‘side business,’ and not a profession for them. The concept of translation as a profession is completely alien to us. As things stand now there is no money or glory in it. The publisher probably gets the money and the writer the glory and the translator has to make do with a mere mention of his name in the book. The situation in certain other linguistic regions of India is slightly better. While Bengali and Tamil fictions have always done well on the translation front, Kannada, Punjabi and Malayalam fictions have been faring very well in recent years. It is therefore necessary to go into the areas of difficulty in translation from the theoretical and other points of view and examine why people here in AP and elsewhere too are not inclined to take to translation seriously, as a profession.

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