Language and Literature
In any translation of a literary work, identity is an important consideration. What happens to an author’s identity as it traverses international borders and cultures? How well is a translator able to “translate” the identity of the author of the source text? To what extent does the translator’s intention or objective influence the way in which the source text author is presented to the target audience? This paper examines these questions based on the translations of William Shakespeare’s plays into Malayalam, the language spoken in the southern state of Kerala in India. The earliest Malayalam translation appeared in 1866, when India was still under British rule. It is interesting to note how the identity of Shakespeare assumes different shades in keeping with the objectives of the translator. The important question is whether the translator’s treatment of the original text has been fair to the source text author, especially when the latter is much removed in time and space. How does one define “fair treatment?”
The distinctiveness of an author lies in how he/she employs language and how his/her cultural uniqueness comes across. The translation of identity is examined at the levels of culture and language, two important markers in this regard. A certain amount of manipulation (by the translator) is observed when attempting to find equivalents for linguistic and cultural aspects. This paper explores how such manipulations enhance or distort the identity of the poet-dramatist William Shakespeare, and also how the individuality of the translator shines through the translated work.