A PARTITIONED BOOK?: THE GERMAN TRANSLATION OF VIKRAM CHANDRA’S “SACRED GAMES”

The German version of Vikram Chandra’s much-praised novel ‘Sacred Games’
(2006) is now on the market. However, this translation presents a number of
what can only be called anomalies, from the viewpoint of the integrity of
the work.

Chandra’s – admittedly long – novel has been split into two volumes, ‘Der
Gott von Bombay’ (‘The God of Bombay’) and ‘Bombay Paradise’ (both
translated by Barbara Heller and Kathrin Razum, published by Aufbau Verlag
of Berlin and dated 2006). Each contains a (non-identical but overlapping) glossary and
dramatis personae. The first volume ends with the last words of the chapter
‘Meeting Beauty’ (p. 529 of the original).

However, the impression of most readers will be that this is not one novel
divided into two, but two separate books. BOTH novels are presented in the
lead-in pages as ‘the’ translation of ‘Sacred Games’, which is not the
case. The first volume ends with a mention of ‘Bombay Paradise’ as its
continuation (‘Fortsetzung’); the second begins with a ‘story-so-far’ summary of
‘Der Gott von Bombay’. There is no translator’s foreword or afterword, no
introduction, and all in all very little to indicate the arbitrary division
into two: surely, only the more attentive readers will notice. Nowhere,
anywhere, are the two volumes referred to as ‘Sacred Games Parts I and II’,
which at least would be correct.

It is difficult to see anything but commercial reasons behind this …
partition of Chandra’s novel: the fact that the first volume came out just
in time for the 2006 Frankfurt Book Fair may, perhaps, be not unrelated.

It may be worth adding that, while all of Chandra’s three books exist on
the German market, ‘Red Earth and Pouring Rain’ has been translated as
‘Tanz der Götter’ (‘The Dance of the Gods’) , and ‘Love and Longing in
Bombay’ as ‘Die Fünf Seiter des Lebens’ (‘The Five Sides of Life’). Now we
have a partitioned third book, retitled twice over. Translation, vital
activity though it is, does indeed sometimes come at a price …

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