Now on-line are the full, revised texts of my three papers on translation issues

delivered in March 2006 at Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi).

If you are interested, please download.

Here are details.




 Revised text of a paper given by the author at the International Workshop

on “Intercultural Studies Today: Challenges and Imperatives”, held at the

School of Languages, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru

University (JNU) New Delhi), 9-11 March 2006.



 One of the great minds of the twentieth century, Walter Benjamin – a name

cited with reverence in Translation Studies circles even though he produced

only a sliver of reflections on the subject – has put forward philosophical

arguments in favour of an ontological equality of source and translated

texts. As a recent commentator, Diego Fernבndez, has observed, “human

languages, in Benjamin’s conception of language, maintain a relationship of

affinity – not through being like each other or similar to each other, but

through kinship” . Translation thus becomes a matter not of similarity or

identity (translated text copies source text) but of affinity in difference

(translated text and source text are two objects, separate yet akin and

equal in value). In his early, esoteric text “On Language as Such and on

the Language of Man” (1916), Benjamin affirms: “Translation attains its

full meaning in the realisation that every evolved language … can be

considered as a translation of all the others” , perceiving translation as

a succession not of similarities but of transformations, and thus pointing

towards a vision of source and translated text as ontological equals.





Revised text of a paper given by the author at the International Workshop

on “Intercultural Studies Today: Challenges and Imperatives”, held at the School of

Languages, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) New Delhi), 9-11 March




 The theme of this paper requires that we establish the nature of the object

of study: what precisely is the thing that we are used to calling Indian

Writing in English, or IWE? I shall begin my discussion with some remarks

from over three decades ago, by the late David McCutchion, one of IWE’s

earliest and still one of its most pertinent critics. In the introduction

to his eponymous book on the subject published in 1969, McCutchion writes:

“The fascination of Indian writing in English lies … in the phenomenon … of

literary creativity in a language other than the surrounding mother tongue”

, and goes on to pinpoint some of the characteristics, both assets and

drawbacks, of that phenomenon. Notably, he highlights the particular

technical difficulties posed by the use of dialogue in IWE works: “It would

require very exceptional gifts and total bilingualism to express directly

in English the lives of people who do not themselves speak English” , while

noting the very specific positioning of the Indian intellectual writing in

English, in terms which, though today they require rephrasing for gender,

remain perceptive and eloquent: “What the Indian poet or novelist may

present … is his own experience as a man educated to think and feel in

Western categories confronting the radically different culture all around

him” . McCutchion supposes a surface-and-depth model: under the

English-language surface lies a “radically different” Indian mind.





‘Problems of translating Indian Writing in English into Spanish, **

Note added 5 July 2010

1) The first lecture, “Translation as Dialogue”, has been published in:

Perspectives on Comparative Literature and Culture in the Age of Globalization, eds. Saugata Bhaduri and Amar Basu, London, New York, New Delhi: Anthem Press, 2010, pp. 29-39 (for details, see entry on this blog. 4 July 2010). 

It has also been quoted, in the context of translation theory in a globalising world, in the article:

 ” Problems and Prospects of Translating Yorùbá Verbal Art Into Literary English: An Ethnolinguistic Approach” by:

Tajudeen SURAKAT (Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria),

included in the 2008 yearbook of the  International Association for Translation & Intercultural Studies –

and available on-line at:



has been published in JNU’s journal JSL. Details:

JSL (New Delhi), No 9, Spring 2008, pp. 20-39; on-line at:



with reference to “A Married Woman” by Manju Kapur

(translated as “Una mujer casada” by Dora Sales Salvador)’

Author of paper: Dr Christopher Rollason


This paper was given at Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) on 7 March 2006, as part

of the event “Writers’ Meet”. In its composition I was able to count on the help of both Manju

Kapur and Dora Sales, and Manju Kapur herself honoured the seminar

with her presence!



In our times, the Indian capacity, as identified early by Macaulay, for “facility and correctness” of expression in English manifests itself in the multiform literary phenomenon known as Indian Writing in English (or IWE), and Manju Kapur, whose work concerns us here, is one of a long and by now familiar list of highly-regarded living practitioners. IWE remains controversial in certain Indian critical circles, being regarded as “insufficiently Indian” or “inauthentic”, notably when practised by expatriates or non-resident Indians (a stricture which does not apply to Manju Kapur, who lives in Delhi). The position continues to exist that writers in Indian languages are somehow more “Indian” than those who write in English – this despite the fact that translation takes place within India in all possible directions: between Indian languages; from Indian languages to English (as with Tagore); and from English to Indian languages, as with the Hindi, Marathi and Bengali versions of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. At all events, IWE is certainly not a problem-free genre, and some of its inherent cruxes were perspicaciously outlined as early as 1968, by the pioneering critic David McCutchion, who, in his volume Indian Writing in English, asked a set of questions which are still pertinent today: “To what extent are Indian writers in English truly bilingual? … Is it possible to truthfully recreate the dialogue of people all around speaking the regional languages, or should the Indian writer in English confine himself to those who actually use English? … In so far as the Indian writer in English does write for his fellow Indians and not the overseas market, what audience does he have in mind?” . Today, it needs to be remembered that successful IWE novelists write for a market that is by definition hybrid – for an English-speaking but Indian public at home, and for a much broader but still Anglophone readership abroad encompassing Britain, the US, Canada, the rest of the English-speaking world, and, indeed, non-native speakers such as Dutch, Danes or others who feel comfortable reading in English. The readership is further enlarged by translation, which may be into Indian or non-Indian languages. An IWE writer’s “foreign” (i.e. non-Indian) readership is divided between a group who read the books in the original and a second group, further removed from the text, who approach them via translation. Like any IWE writer, Manju Kapur occupies a particular position vis-à-vis the English language and the IWE genre itself, which reflects her personal and educational history. In parallel, her translator, Dora Sales, operates from within a specific cultural space which requires defining.

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