Zubaan-Prabha Khaitan Foundation Translation Series

Indian publishers keen to realize the value of feminist and social content

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Zubaan
Dear Mrs. Naidu, a young adult novel by Mathangi Subramanian has been taken up by a new digital and print Hindi publisher for translation and publication. Photo Zubaan

A collaboration between Zubaan, the noted feminist publishing house based in New Delhi, and the Kolkata-based Prabha Khaitan Foundation has launched a translation project to unlock some of the publisher’s content into several Indian languages simultaneously. The project called the Zubaan-Prabha Khaitan Foundation Translation Series brings financial support for translating numerous Zubaan titles on offer to publishers of Indian language books.

Named after the late Hindi writer Prabha Khaitan, the Foundation organizes literary and cultural activities and publishes the monthly, Prabha. It has thus far provided a grant to Zubaan for the first year which will be used mainly for offering support to publishers for translation while the costs of publishing and distribution will be borne by the publishers. Apart from administering the project, Zubaan is offering the translation rights that it owns to Indian language publishers. The authors of the titles have been taken into confidence and they are quite thrilled at the prospect of seeing their work finding readers and resonance in several languages.

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Zubaan’s NGO has contracted publishing professional and feminist translator Manisha Chaudhry to administer the project. Photo Zubaan

The project has also met with enthusiasm from Indian publishers keen to expand the front lists in their languages of extremely valuable feminist content – much of it first-person accounts of the country’s recent social and political history. Zubaan’s NGO has contracted publishing professional and feminist translator Manisha Chaudhry to administer the project. 

When asked about the daunting task of assigning the rights and managing the first year’s translations and publishing program comprising reaching out to several Indian publishers across the country, Chaudhry is enthusiastic. Looking at gaining further insight into the professional literary translation ecosystem in the country and helping it to grow, she says, “While we are confident that the publishers will do their best to ensure quality, we will share ideas that have helped us in the past. For example, independent review by two reviewers could be helpful for translators. Over time, we hope to gather experiences and insights that might work across languages as well as identify more good translators and reviewers in different languages.

“We are hopeful that translation will turn from a passion to a process, which has ramifications beyond the individual publishing house. When you work with any publisher in a fairly sustained manner, over time, the internal review processes of that publication house for translation should improve,” she says. 

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Urvashi Butalia, co-founder and director of Zubaan Books. Photo Zubaan

Urvashi Butalia, co-founder and director of Zubaan Books. Photo Zubaan says, “I think that when translations travel within the country and internationally and do well and there is publicity, it always encourages other publishers to take up more translations. As far as our project is concerned, our focus is to get feminist content into Indian languages and to get content from Indian languages to English, the language in which we publish. We would do that regardless of whether or not translated books are doing well internationally or nationally because at both levels they have had some successes.”

The first series of translations from ZubaanNine titles, seven languages, and seventeen translations

In its first year, 17 translations will be published by leading publishers into seven Indian languages – Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Bangla, Malayalam, and Marathi. The initiative makes modest grants for translations into Indian languages and hopes to bring value and recognition to professional translators and their work. It enables publishers to publish well-translated works and improve the translation ecosystem in the subcontinent. 

The initial list includes novels, books for young adults, academic books, and non-fiction work. Nine Zubaan titles are going from English to a variety of Indian languages. Another three Zubaan titles that are in translation from Indian languages and published in English are being taken by other publishers keen to translate and publish in their languages.

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The Zuban-Prabha Khaitan translation series’ first-year list includes the JCB Prize-nominated Name Place Animal Thing a novel by Dhariba Lyndem to be translated into Malayalam and published by DC Books. Photo Zubaan

The Zuban-Prabha Khaitan translation series’ first-year list includes the JCB Prize-nominated Name Place Animal Thing a novel by Dhariba Lyndem to be translated into Malayalam and published by DC Books; and, Younguncle Comes to Town, the children’s storybook by Vandana Singh which is also being translated into Malayalam to be published by Insight Publica. 

Dear Mrs. Naidu, a young adult novel by Mathangi Subramanian has been taken up by a new digital and print Hindi publisher for translation and publication. Shikhandi And Other Queer Tales They Don’t Tell You, a collection of stories drawn from Hindu mythology by Devdutt Pattnaik is making its way into Telugu through the Hyderabad Book Trust – a non-profit publishing collective. 

Bitter Wormwood a novel from the Northeast by Easterine Kire has been taken up by the independent Tamil publisher Panmuga Medai. The Story of Felanee originally written by Arupa Patangia Kalita in Assamese and translated by Deepika Phukan into English has been taken up by the Pune-based Mehta Publishing House for translation and publishing in Marathi. 

Two titles that challenge the conventional narrative of recent Indian history have been taken up for translation into Bangla by the Jadavpur University Press: Recasting Women – Essays in Colonial History – an anthology edited by Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid, and Writing Caste/Writing Gender – Narrating Dalit Women’s Testimonies by Sharmila Rege.

In the first year’s list of translations, several titles were originally published in Indian languages and subsequently translated and published by Zubaan Books. We Also Made History, is an account of women in the Ambedkarite movement originally in Marathi that was translated by Zuban for publication in English. It will be translated into both Tamil as well as Telugu with the Telugu translation slated for publication by the Hyderabad Book Trust and the Tamil translation to be published by the independent and Ambekarite publisher Maithri.

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The Telugu title The Sharp Knife of Memory by the legendary Telengana movement leader Kondapalli Koteswaramma and translated by VB Sowmya into English for Zubaan is to be translated into Marathi and Malayalam. Photo Zubaan

The Telugu title The Sharp Knife of Memory by the legendary Telengana movement leader Kondapalli Koteswaramma and translated by VB Sowmya into English for Zubaan is to be translated into Marathi and Malayalam. While the Marathi version will be published by Mehta Publishing House, the Malayalam translation will be published by DC Books. 

There are two titles originally published by Zubaan in English that will be simultaneously published in Hindi and Punjabi in the first year’s translation and publishing program. Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora? – a non-fiction work about mass rape with impunity written by five Kashmiri women, Essar Batool, Ifrah Butt, Samreena Mushtaq, Munaza Rashid, and Natasha Rather will be published in Hindi and Punjabi by the Rethink Foundation. 

Similarly, The Rethink Foundation has also selected The Business of Sex, a collection of essays by Laxmi Murthy and Meena Saraswathi Seshu for publishing in Hindi and Punjabi.

While plans for the Zubaan-Prabha Khaitan translation series project have been in the works for several months, its uptake by the Indian publishers after the list of available titles was released has been immediate. And we are hoping to see most, if not all, of the first year’s series of seventeen titles in seven languages, to be published by the end of 2022.

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