Saar Sansaar
A Quarterly Magazine of Foreign Language Literatures in Hindi
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"Saar Sansaar" is a Vorstellung of Dr. Amrit Mehta for those lovers of world literature, who want to read their literature in Hindi - in an undiluted form, where the original text does not come to them through the filter of English. This is a modest effort to restore Hindi it's rightful glorious place in the world, whereby Hindi readers do not have to depend on some English and American translator to decide for them, what kind of literature from various foreign languages they should read.

This new issue of July-Sept. 2015 contains writings of three male and 3 women writers â€" three stories each by the Czeck Bozena Nemcova, Austrian Marianne Gruber and Slovak Rut Lichnerova, a poem by French writer Paul Verlaine and then two serialized books, viz. SwissFranz Hohler's "Die Steinflut" and German Volker Neuhaus' Biography if Guenter Grass by Prof. Volker Neuhaus. I hope our reader would like our assortment of this scrumptous fare. For reading the magazine, please click here!

In the June 2012-issue I had written an editorial about the misuse of chair and the harm done to the literature of Indian languages by a former Secretary of the Sahitya Academy Mr. Satchidanandan. Many reactions on this write-up were received not only in this magazine, but also in other literary magazines, which published this essay. Everyone, as one would expect, condemned the exploits of Mr. Satchidanandan. Poet Balkavi Bairagi and many other writers had demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation. But our system is such that it does not take any action even when a direct complaint is made - then who would take cognizance of something published in a literary magazine? Satchidanandan was, after all, a bureaucrat, hence the bureaucrats, who are running this country, are not likely to take any action on one of their ilk.

What I had written about Satchidanandan, was immediately forwarded to him by one of the readers of SAAR SANSAR, who sent back a prompt e-mail response. I did not reply to his pretence promptly, but now, after having waited for 3 years, keeping in view the goings-on in the field of Hindi literature in the intervening period, I think it is time that his babble be replied to without any further delay: I will, for now, cite an important segment of his mail:
I had tried my best to launch a project to translate Indian works into foreign languages; a committee had also selected books for translation; but there was no way the books could be published - there was no point in the Akademi itself publishing books and dumping them in its godown.While on a trip to France- it was paid for not by the Akademi, but the Foreign Affairs Ministry of France- I had even gone to the Gallimard office and had a conversation with the head of the publishing house. But all the publishers including Gallimard insisted that they will accept only translations done by the speakers of the target language, and that too after they have first discussed and approved the titles... Now the Govt of India has formed a body 'Indian Literature Abroad' to undertake translations of chosen works into foreign languages recognised by the UN. The body is headed by URAnanthamurthy.Namita Gokhale is the Director.It is in the initial stages and is also facing similar problems about finding publishers etc.

Here Mr. Satchidanandan is talking of another white elephant. Strangely enough, he is also a Member of this body, which fact he has not mentioned in his mail. Today, after 3 years this "Indian Literature Abroad" has not done anything. If one opens its website, one finds "Ministry of Culture", and if the link "Indian Literature Abroad" is clicked on, one comes back to the same original page; there is no mention of the work this body is doing. At some other place one is given a hint that its members had been to Paris. It is on record that Namita Gokhale has been to Frankfurt Book Fair and God knows to which other places. The so-called objective of this institution is to broaden internationally the reach of many literatures of India, so that the imbalance in the exchange of literature could be corrected. To achieve this objective one proposes to translate Indian literature, conduct workshops, cooperate with other agencies and offer stipends. Namita Gokhale had made the following statement at the Jaipur Literature Festival:

India is striving to shed its "colonial mindset" and instead [look] at itself in its own mirror." As a result the local publishing industry (publishing in local languages) is booming, and more Indian-language books are being directly translated into foreign languages, without having to go through the traditional English route.

There can't be a bigger lie than this. The people of this country are tired of listening to such verbosity again and again. These writers have all become government officers and can give any absurd statement. This statement can be read at On 25.11.2011 I had contradicted this statement:
Namita Gokhale says that more Indian-language books are being directly translated into foreign languages,without having to go through the traditional English route. I would like to know the names of those books, authors, languages - both source and target - and also the names of the translators of those books, which have recently been translated directly into foreign languages. Mr. Satchidanandan says that the Akademi has not been able to get any such translation done in the last two decades, because it is impossible to get native translators. I agree with this statement. I do not know a European native speaker, also from the area of Indology, who can translate Indian literature directly into his mother tongue. These statements run contradictory to each other. It would be interesting to know the titles of the books mentioned by Namita Gokhale.

Till date Namite Gokhale has not replied on her website.

On 25.4.2011 one scholar Mr. Indraneel Chakravarty wrote:
I fully agree with the doubts expressed by Mr. Amrit Mehta about the claims of Namita Gokhale that Indian literature is being translated directly into foreign languages. A translator has to be a native speaker, e.g. someone from Spain/Latin America, France etc., whose education in Tamil or Banga is sound enough to enable him to translate from the source language...We ourselves face problems when we interpret literature from English into our mother tongue.

Quite some time back I opened the website to see any reactions to these two opinions, but there was an "Error" sign, for years it is still there. Now even our comments have been deleted.

I would like to quote two very significant lines from Mr. Satchidanandan's mail:
Gallimard insisted that they will accept only translations done by the speakers of the target language... But the body might offer subsidies to publsihers in which case they may be ready to publish them.

A longer editorial on this issue some other time! Now I will take up an important issue. The sum total of these 2 lines is that the foreign publisher would accept translations done by native speakers, which is a just demand, and on this actuality I have been stressing for years now. The other issue is that the foreign publisher would like to have some financial backing for publishing the books. The former Secretary is not averse to this demand as well, although to learn this little truth he had to travel to Paris.

The irony is that a German anthology of Hindi literature is ready since 2010. It has taken 3 years' labour to accomplish this job. A native speaker has translated it; the vetting of the story-collection has been done by the specialists of the subject . "Sahitya Akademi" or dysfunctional "Indian Literature Abroad" can find a foreign publisher for this. There is no need to pay any translator, no need to hold symposia etc., no compulsion to pay stipends; it is just there, waiting to be grabbed. If the concerned "officers" have an iota of love for their country or their language they should not let this opportunity slip out of their hands.
The planning of this anthology had started in 2006, and the work started in 2007. I would not like to go into details. I begged for such an anthology in Austria, and I succeeded. I was asked to translate the stories into German, but I insisted that I would not be able to do full justice to the job; some native speaker had to do it. An Austrian author, who had an Indian wife, recommended the name of a University Professor from Berlin, who was paid 4000 Euro for the job. When the translations came, we were not fully satisfied with them. For three years, one month each during the summer vacation, three persons toiedl on the translations. Often we worked for 8 hours a day, selflessly and without any remuneration. I had, of course, a selfish motive - getting the literature of my country translated into the most important language of the European continent, but my Austrian partners were truly selfless. None of us wanted anything less than a perfect translation. I was representing Hindi, and then there were the noted writer Mrs. Marianne Gruber, the Life-President of the Austrian Society for Literature, and Prof. Manfred Mueller of Vienna University, who were the guiding spirits behind the project.

We also faced the same problem of finding a publisher. Mrs. Gruber tried her personal contacts, I also contacted Berlin's Suhrkamp Verlag and Frankfurt's Schoeffling & Co., where I had good contacts, but we did not succeed in our efforts. I always knew that this was the responsibility of "Sahitya Akademi, and I also knew that the Akademi would not touch it with a barge pole. My readers know the reasons. I have not learnt the art of networking, and I did not go to this Agency with my begging bowl. But I am well aware that the Akademi knows about this anthology, but the officers are pretending ignorance.

After many years I am making these facts public. I had collected the stories from many Hindi-Anthologies . Some poems by Anamika, Chandrakant Deotale, Vikash Rai etc. were also selected, which were excluded on the advice of the Austrian partners, because they thought Prose-texts would be enough. The selection was mine. For me the reading experience of German readers was more important than the name or fame of Indian writers. The translation of Rajendra Yadav's story "Uska Aana" got misplaced all through the delay of so many years, and could not be included in this Anthology, though he had been waiting eagerly for this story to be published. The translation of Raji Seth's "Rajjo" was not translated and sent to us by the German translator, which ultimately I had to translate; and my Austrian partners again helped me in giving it a near perfect character. Following is the list of those 15 writers, whose tales were ultimately approved by Marianne Gruber and Prof. Manfred Mueller:

Mridula Garag, Uday Prakash, Priyanvad, Prakash Kant, Sanjay Khati, Jaswant Singh Virdi, Alka Saraogi, Vishnu Prabhakar, Shobha Narayan, Sheoraj Singh Bechain, Prem Kumar Mani, Swadesh Deepak, Krishna Sharma and Matimeri Upendra.

At the time of collecting stories I know only 2 of these authors personally; even now I know only 5; hence there is no question of any favouritism. Some of the writers have, in this long span of time, left this world. "Indian Literature Abroad", as I observed, has not come up to scratch. Will the "Sahitya Akademi" take cognizance of this Anthology? I hope, one is large-hearted enough to accept the fact that some of the favourites of the Akademi may not be there, but all of those, whose stories have been translated, are our own Indians.

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