BENGALURU: UR Ananthamurthy’s Avasthe may have been penned 42 years ago but it is still as relevant today. So it’s no surprise that its translation into English continues to have a tour de force. Narayan Hegde, who started translating the novel in 2018, says, “After the death of URA, I had talked about the need to bring out this English translation with his daughter Anuradha and son-in-law Vivek Shanbhag. However, earlier when I translated some of his short stories and published them as Stallion of the Sun and Other Stories, URA not only knew, but was encouraging too, without being involved.”
Published by HarperCollins India, Avasthe, which is the third novel in a trilogy, chronicles the social and political changes that took place after Independence. While the other two books in the trilogy are available in English, this is the first time this one has been translated into English. A professor emeritus of English at State University of New York, Hegde’s association with URA goes back to his student days in Maharaja’s College in Mysuru where he was a young lecturer.
“I have followed his evolution as an author and an intellectual, while, at various stages of my life, he has taken a personal interest as well,” he recalls.Hegde is a translator who has worked on several books, including Annayya’s Anthropology by A K Ramanujan. He admits that translating from Kannada is a painstakingly slow process. But his familiarity with much of the milieu of Ananthamurthy’s works was an advantage. “Having grown up in rural Malenadu, the culture-specific customs, vocabulary and the socio-political contexts of his fiction are known to me.
It (translation) is never spontaneous, never perfect, involves more than one draft and, sometimes, outside readers,” he says, adding that as of now, he is not aware of any reaction from the family of URA. “I hope they are pleased. Vivek Shanbhag, who is a fine writer, has been closely involved in all phases of publishing this translation,” he says.
Apart from the usual challenges, translating Ananthamurthy’s fiction, Hegde says, presents some unique challenges stemming from the fact that he was not interested in making concession to a dominant Western literary market or the reader. “What Ananthamurthy has said is worth considering – ‘I can be authentic as a writer only if I don’t intend to be translated.’ The non-linearity of narration in much of his fiction can be baffling for an uninitiated reader,” he explains.