Expansion of Translation Industry in India

On the final day of the Kerala Literature Festival, Sunday (January 15), three publishers – David Davidar of Aleph Book Company, Aditi Maheshwari Goyal of Vani Prakashan, and Ravi Deecee of DC Books – and an author – V.J. James – discussed the pros and cons of publishing translations in India. It is important to learn and borrow from other languages to communicate as it is impossible for language to grow in vaccum this is what Goyal urgued.

Davidar said that India is one of the most interesting and challenging landscapes for publishing translations because of its numerous languages.

James, who is a Malayalam writer has several of his books translated into English, and he believes that this helped him to reach an audience he never thought he could. He further added that social media has also helped to make translations popular. He says “Social media has also played a role in increasing the popularity of translations. People will read a book and then post about it, which will pique the interest of others who may be living in different contexts.” This has made readers from all over the world discuss the same books and also learn about the culture and customs of the different parts of the world.  

Goyal was upset about the fact that translation networks do not exist in India as they should. Instead, informal relationships between people in the publishing industry often lead to books being translated, which may not be representative of all the books produced in the country.

“In a country like India, translation becomes critical. Unfortunately, no Europe-style model exists in the United States to streamline and bring together literature from various parts of the country. There are national organisations that were supposed to do this, but they are only serving as publishers.” Goyal said.

Also there is no formula for discovering new books. “Discoverability is still a challenge; we rely on our friends and advisors. Something like a publisher’s cooperative, which Ravi [Deecee] sir and I have been discussing, could possibly help smooth things over.”

It is true, however, that the situation today is somewhat different, according to Deecee, because there is a growing interest in and recognition for translated works. “I was surprised by the JCB Award when it was first announced [which goes to Indian fiction written in English or translated into English], but fortunately our translators have lived up to the challenge – books written in English and translated into English can stand side by side. This has changed in the last five to ten years, as the industry has grown, so has the quality of translation.”

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