Readers cannot afford to be unmindful of the reasons behind selection of a particular book for translation in the modern times, writer and political activist K.E.N. Kunhammad has said.

Speaking at a session on the role of translations in Malayalam literature organised in connection with the 20 DC Books International book fair and cultural fest at the Arayidathupalam grounds here on Monday, Mr. Kunhammad said there could be different reasons, hidden as well as obvious, behind the selection of books for translations.

“It need not be the markets that always decide it. Ideologies and global powers also can call the shots at times, which we cannot be completely unaware of,” he said.

Mr. Kunhammad, who argued that the very activity of translation historically was a revolt against orthodoxy, maintained that pioneers of translation were persecuted by the vested interest on several instances in the history of translations.

“We know what John Wycliffe had to undergo for translating bible into English and how Vallathol was treated by some members of the so-called high cast for translating Ramayanam into Malayalam,” he said. However, the selection of a work for translation into any other language need not be considered an act as innocent as it was in the past. Now “there are different interests that works behind it,” he said.

This could be the reason for some deserving books getting shunned and some “crap” getting selected and celebrated by publishers, the Left thinker said. There could be an underlying politics even behind the selection of a particular timing for translation of certain books, he said.

According to him, it need not be the best works of a particular writer that often get the attention of a translator or a publisher in the first place. “We know that Thakazhi has written many greater works than Chemmeen. But it was Chemmeen that got translated into other languages more than any of his other works,” said Mr. Kunhammed.

Writer P.K. Parakkadavu, who spoke on the occasion, explained how the firmament of Malayalam readers got expanded and enriched through translations of great literature from across the globe into Malayalam. “For us Gabriel García Márquez, Orhan Pamuk, and Milan Kundera are as familiar as any other great Malayalam writers thanks to translations,” he said.

As many as eight books translated from different languages into Malayalam including a short story collection of the celebrated film maker Satyajit Ray translated by Mr. Nambiar were released during the function.

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