Opening the Sinhala readers window to a wider arena

Book facts: “Sonduru Sithuwam” by Chandana Mendis (winner of the 2008 State Literary Award for translation into Sinhala). Reviewed by Vijita Fernando.

This compendium of short stories selected from the writings of internationally reputed writers and translated into Sinhala, opens windows to the creative work of many writers of fiction in English. The translator has selected the works of a wide range of writers, most of whose short fiction is known to readers of English. But it is to the reader in Sinhala to whom creative writing in English is a closed book that this collection would be of greater importance.

If translations are the ‘traffic between nations’, as has often been said, then this collections brings to the Sinhala reader much more than mere fiction. Admittedly the fiction is a high order considering that these are products of internationally known and respected writers. Through their creativity the reader’s mind opens to different cultures, traditions and life styles of these writers.

They bring to the reader a glimpse of situations, hopes and aspirations of other cultures, other peoples. An effort such as this compendium is commendable if only for this aspect. But there is more. Mendis has selected his stories with care and precision and balanced his choice well. Thus we get a general idea of the writing of Russian, English, Indian, French, Japanese and American authors. From among these he has made his own personal selection of stories. Readers familiar with the works of Anton Chekhov, O. Henry, Maugham, Guy de Maupassant, Mulk Raj Anand and other well known writers from these countries will find fresh insights into their work in the Sinhala translations.

A translator’s task is not a mere transference of written material from one language to another. There is a creative process involved in transferring writing of one language to another. It is not a mechanical interpretation. A translation is something quite different from creative writing in one’s own language. A sound knowledge of the two languages concerned – (in this case Sinhala and English) is just part of the process of translations.

Added to this there should be a certain kind of creativity in the transfer of thoughts, concepts, nuances in the language of one language to the other. Also, the cultural aspect of the original work has to be taken into consideration and exactitude is vital if the translator is to do full justice to the original work. This has to be strongly emphasized in translating from one language to another. As Robert Lowell said, a perfect translation is not just a translation. It is a ‘transcreation”.

Chandana Mendis is to be congratulated not only in his choice of English fiction, but also on the sensitive handling of his material when transferring these into his own Sinhala. It is clear that not only is his knowledge of the two languages more than merely adequate, but that he has a strong grasp of both. He has had a number of translations published over the years in addition to several publications in Sinhala. Reading through this selection of translations it is evident that his previous experience has stood him in good stead in compiling this translated work.

This collection was preceded by a previous similar collection of short stories of world renowned writers which, according to the translator was well received and encouraged him to take on the task of translating the work of another 25 writers.

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
Other Plus Articles
Safe and small wins the race
Both war heroes, but country needs a president for peace -- Letter to the editor
Read up on world history before making statements against Gen. Fonseka -- Letter to the editor
Why do we turn a deaf ear to our indigenous music? -- Letter to the editor
Malli had many talents and excelled in the roles he took on -- Appreciation
Fond recollections of the Maristonian master blaster -- Appreciation
Remembering my grandfather’s voice -- Appreciation
Tsunami village in sewage hell
Getting set for the big literary buzz
Bold colours for the brave
Soothing and clashing, the sounds of fusion flowed
Did the Buddha visit Sri Lanka?
Give them their space, at least in the parks
Phenomenal photographic voyage
Opening the Sinhala readers window to a wider arena
A valuable legal book for students, teachers of law
New book by Merrill
Trilingual treat, in book form and DVD
Ashok Ferrey’s first novel
A collective voice for the disabled
Street Art at the DBU
Visakha OGA honours its distinguished Old Girls
A planter retires
Catch the Barefoot buzz
People and events


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2009 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.| Site best viewed in IE ver 6.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution