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Focus on Books :

Marguerite Duras in Sinhala

Uturu Chinaye Adaravanthaya
By Niroshini Gunasekara
Samayawardhana Publishers 2007

Although there are quite a number of books, especially creative works flooding into the book market via translations from English to Sinhala, it is rarely one sees the appearance of works translated from some of the original languages such as German, French or Italian.

This may be due to the dearth of translators and scholars familiar with such languages. When such an occasion arises the reader feels the difference in the very flavour or the original devoid of the unhampered transformational voyages traversed by the original work via a dependable language.

I saw this difference in flavour when I read the translation of the French novel written by the author Marguerite Duras (1914-1996) titled in the original as La’Amant De la Chine du Nord.

Having fulfilled the needed requirements, such as obtaining official permission for translation rights, the translator Niroshini Gunasekara, a senior lecturer in French attached to the modern languages department of the University of Kelaniya, sets about giving a significant account of the type of creative works as produced over the years by the original writer and her life experiences in various social contexts.

Then she outlines the various associations and links with the literary genres where she is seen as one of the exceptions to the accepted rules in creativity.

This introduction, I feel exposes some of the significant factors from several contemporary literary points of view. Firstly, she makes the reader known that creative works in French literature are more based on self referential material of the particular writers where literary schools are concerned.

In the case of Duras, she is denoted more as a French novelist born in Indo China with experiences on both cultures. Having had the experiences in a cross cultural milieu which is now known as ‘hybridization’ by some critics, she [Duras] at the age of eighteen had come to Paris where she studied mathematics, law, and political science.

The experiences via these subjects as well as living in two cultures with the exposures of varying types of literary nuances makes her a sensitive observer of human events and they are mostly recorded not in terms of long drawn passages, but through carefully selected situations, dialogues and monologues.

Then the translator Gunasekara outlines the thematic structures and modes of creative communications of the writer where this particular writer Duras is utilizing the simple poetic rhythms and inner exposures where the characters and situations of humane content do matter over and above a conventional story line.

In this manner the translator is just not a transformer of the original in terms of one language to another (from French to Sinhala) but also a visionary into the creative ideologies of the original writer and her work.

The protagonist of the work in discussion is a woman who recollects her experiences in another background while retaining to the place where she stays, in a series of flashback-like episodes connected to each other. There are the briefest situations created where inner feelings are concerned.

Then the reader comes to know of places where human events happen, such as for example a restaurant a room a lounge or garden, and the very same places signify some bearing to the human experiences.

The dialogues that ensue are paced with silences or with pauses where the reader is made to think of the situation as if turning the pages of a picture album and/or a diary of reminiscences.

In one way it is a love story of a rare sort that had happened between a young girl and a Chinese and in another way it is also the inner conflicts and outer encounters of a woman torn between two worlds, the family and the outer world.

The events are made to visualise and not summarised as in a conventional novel, allowing effective reading, and allowing pages move quickly from the eye. There factors pertaining to strange mannerisms, strange human relationships connected with customs and habits. But the writer makes them known as human feelings born in one’s surroundings.

There are moments where people cry and moments where they smile. The work, though a translation, could be read not as a formal translation but as an original work written by a local author in its culture bound experiences.

Perhaps this is one of the most important plus factors that should be emphasised in creative exposures in contemporary literary experiences.

The fact that something that had happened elsewhere is alien to us may not be visible in a good translation, though the similarities and dissimilarities are observable, from a surface layer, and the resultant experiences ought to add some fresh flavour as an impact of the human spirit of one culture into the body of another culture, not as a dominant force but as a human understanding.

Prior to this translation, Gunasekara had translated two more works of Duras into Sinhala. The two preceded works are titled as Sagarayata vellak (2003) and Adaravantaya (2005) could be taken as the first two parts in a trilogy and this being the third one. But even if the first two parts are not read by a reader this particular work could be regarded as a separate creative work.

Good translations are needed to dispel some of the critical misnormers prevailing today in the field of literature, and as taught in higher education.

She admits that she had improved her texture since then and this time she had been over careful as to her rendering of the original pattern of Duras’s creative communication process as closely as possible. The readers too will endorse her improvement undoubtedly.

The translations selected from various cultures play a vital role in the growth of a new literary culture and the trend settings for new creative forms of communication, and this is one such addition to the contemporary Sinhala literary scene.

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