'Translation of Javedji's work was a challenge'

Between words

Ali Husain Mir, a US-based Hyderabadi and translator of  well known writer, poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar’s latest book of poetry, In Other Words, read the English translations of the poems at the book launch at India Islamic Centre, in the capital recently. In a conversation with Metrolife about the written word and the delicate task of translating a veteran’s work, Mir discussed the nuances of his job.

“Translation is a representation of what the original word is. And success of the translation depends upon whether or not you have managed to reproduce, whether or not what the original intent was but also whether it stands on its own. For those people who might read the translation, they may not know the original language. The rhythm, the emotions are very important to be taken care of,” Mir tells Metrolife.

A professor at William Paterson University, USA and the co-author of Anthems of Resistance, a book on the history and politics of the Urdu poets of the Progressive Writers’ Movement, Mir’s tryst with vocabulary is not a new phenomenon.

He says, “You have to first like the work you are translating and have to have a commitment. Also, be as authentic as possible in representation.” He adds, “It was a challenge to translate Javedji’s (Akhtar) work. I don’t know whether it was easy or difficult. Partly because, I hold the poems in such high regard and I had to do full justice to his work, his thoughts and his rhythm.”

An occasional lyricist and scriptwriter for Bollywood cinema, Mir explains his translation which he completed under a strict deadline of a month. “It’s a difficult task to translate,
particularly poetry, because apart from the meaning, it has sensibility and it draws upon the language in which it is written for that sensibility. When you shift that to a different language which has a different history, a very different set of metaphors, the job of the translator is to make sure that you do not impose upon the poem, which was not in the original. At the same time, you don’t want to deaden it to become a very literal translation. So that was the challenge and I did the best I could.”

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