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‘Writers in conversation’

January 06, 2013

IN the report ‘Writers in conversation’ (Books & Authors, Dec 30), writer Mohammed Hanif talked about translations and recalled People’s Publishing House’s (Karachi and Lahore) service in offering Urdu translations of Soviet literature.

Regarding it, we may also remember Franklin Publications of the US. In the 1960s, Franklin translated books about new economic thinking and social transformation, and also works of popular American authors in Urdu.

At the same time, the Pakistan Council for National Integration (PCNI) launched translations of Urdu and Bengali short stories and had them published in newspapers. However, the project did not get far. The remuneration was low (Rs300 a story), and because it was not done in English, newspapers (such as Dawn) as a policy would not publish short stories.

This fact endorses author Hanif’s observation about translation and the effort that goes into making it a creative work.

Dr Attash Durrani, Project Director (now retired) of Urdu Informatics Science, at the National Language Authority (NLA), once remarked that Urdu literature is poorer because translation had not been accepted as an academic discipline. He said literature did not necessarily result in language development.

Even so, the NLA poet, Iftikhar Arif, introduced a project of translation of 50 titles from the Good Books series, and until a few years ago translated more than a dozen classics like Edward Said’s ‘Culture and Imperialism’, Plato’s ‘Dialogues’,, Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’, Charles Hawkin’s ‘History of Time’, Thomas Friedman’s ‘The World is Flat’. But the implementation was sporadic and no effort made for continued action.

Nevertheless, we should not overlook individual pioneering efforts of translation of foreign authors into Urdu and vice versa. We can take, as an example, Islamabad’s Col (Retd) Masud Akhtar Shaikh, official Turkish interpreter to the Pakistan army, who has translated 20 books from Turkish into Urdu, Punjabi, and quite a few from Urdu into Turkish, including a number of Turkish short stories,

‘Turkey ke behtreen afsaane’, Mesud Bey’s ‘Laugh or Lament’, Yasar Kamal’s ‘Raahon ke Saathi’, ‘Murda Gadhe ke Saathi’ and translations of novels and poetry into Urdu, including Nazim Hikmat.

Recently he has published ‘Modern Pakistan Edebiyati’ (Adbiyat), an anthology of 20 short stories from Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Saadat Hassan Manto, Mirza Adib, Intizar Husain, Dr Ejaz Rahi, Rashid Amjad, Ahmad Javes, as well as from provincial literature ‘Zaitun Bano’ (Pushto), Jamaluddin Abro (Sindhi), Nimetullah Gichki (Baloch) and the Punjabi folktale of ‘Sohni-Mahiwal’.

The anthology contains poetry translations of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Faraz, Pervin Shakir, Zia Jullundhri, Munir Niazi, Fehmida Riaz, Mira Ji, Sheikh Ayaz, Hashim Babar, Azad Jamaldini, and others.

In addition, Shaikh Masud has translated ‘The Land of Bees’ and the mystical and religious stories of Turkish writer Ali Nar, author of over 50 religious, scientific and literary works in Turkey.

Masud Shaikh’s two recently-published books from Islamabad were launched at Ankara in November 2012. I have learnt from a reliable source that there is a rush between Turkey’s official organisations and local publishers to have them translated into Turkish. A report on the launching of the books also appeared on Facebook.