In a pleasant new development in the last few years, the Marathi section at Pune's book stores has been teeming with translations of international bestsellers and Indian-English fiction and non-fiction works.
As you browse through the well-stacked book shelves in the Marathi section, your eye immediately catches the translation of Margaret Mitchell’s epic hit Gone With The Wind. You are amused at the thought of Rhett Butler saying his famous last words to Scarlet O Hara in Marathi, but you hold that thought and continue to scan through the dozens of new translated titles around. There’s Greg Mortenson's Three Cups Of Tea, Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, Khaled Hosseni’s The Kite Runner and Thousand Splendid Suns, Rhonda Byrne's Secret, Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City, Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss among many others. The absolute favourites in the pack are Chetan Bhagat, the Chicken Soup for the soul series, Dan Brown, Jeffrey Archer and Sydney Sheldon.
Non-fiction and self-help books - being factual and universal -- are especially hot picks in their translated versions. Barack Obama’s autobiographies, Kiran Bedi’s I Dare, Narayan Murthy’s A Better India, A Better World, A R Rahman’s biography, Tushar Gandhi’s Let’s Kill Gandhi, Harsha Bhogale's Out Of The Box, Shobhaa De’s Spouse – are all popular. As you glance some more, you see an entire shelf dedicated to self-help/inspirational books. Several copies of Rujuta Diwekar’s new book, Women & the Weight Loss Tamasha in Marathi have freshly arrived. The other top sellers are Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Rashmi Bansal’s Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.
There's been a 100 per cent jump in sales of translated works in Marathi at Crossword ICC Towers. "Where earlier we used to have 10-15 books, now we have almost 150 of them," says its manager Girdhar Agarwal. He attributes this somewhat to the highly literate class of Maharashtrian and Puneites in particular.
48-year-old Sneha Latkar is one such reader, who says she has a working knowledge of English, but prefers the Marathi translation as she doesn't have to struggle with the meanings and can get a complete sense of the book. "I read one entire volume of Sidney Sheldon in a matter of days. It was so gripping," she says. "I find the standard of translation very good. I’m engaged by the story, which is what matters," she adds.
We did a check ourselves and while the translation is satisfactory, and a perfectly acceptable alternative to the original, cultural contexts do colour the text somewhat. For example, Rhett Butler’s last words –‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’ expectedly sounds awkward and lame in Marathi. The dialogues in the novel suffer, but the description as a whole captures the essence quite well. From the little I saw, there was a minor gaffe in the Obama autobiography as well. But these are niggles.
Readers seem to be happy and the sales indicate that clearly. City-based Mehta Publishers, who have been at the forefront of these translations state that there has been a huge jump in the last 3 years. Its CEO Sunil Mehta tells us that he has to acquire rights from the original writer, before translating it. "For example, Dan Brown sells very well, but I have to pay him considerably for it – say 700-800 dollars," he says. As for translation techniques, he explains that the effort is always to remain as faithful as possible to the original. "We try to retain everything, even if there is erotic content. We tone it down, but we keep it," he says. As for the future, he believes, it is tough to predict trends in the book world. "But I think the next ten years will only see this market growing," he says.
Best-sellers in Marathi
1) Sidney Sheldon
2) Jeffrey Archer
3) Chetan Bhagat
4) Dan Brown
5) Rujuta Diwekar