The early stories in Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Stories present tales of ideas more than characters or location.
I’m thinking particularly of the nameless killers of The Wooden Bridge (Sanko) or the pursuers, referred to only as numbers one, two and three, of A Fugitive And A Follower (Palatak O Amusarankari), which have a Camus-like simplicity and dread to them.
Later stories in the collection add in unusual and memorable characters and situations.
But the casual caste violence is a shock, despite ringing true, as is the acceptance by some of the characters of their lot.
However, this is all very much despite the clunky translation, which continually threatened to derail the book.
It’s curious, that the same translator, Shelia Sengupta, worked on Gangopadhyay’s poetry collection Murmur in the Woods, which I greatly enjoyed and didn’t stop to consider her hand in that translation, perhaps the best complent you can pay a translator.
So it was a surprise that Stories should jar so much. Certainly the use of its and its’ when it’s is meant is always going to bring out my inner proof reader. This is particularly true when both incorrect uses appear in the same paragraph.
Moreover, mistakes like the full stop that appears half way through the sentence instead of at its end were commonplace in the version of the book I have, along with awkward turns of phrase that test the reader’s patience.
But, whether translator or editor is to blame, it’s a shame this book should remind me of cheap Indian translations whose authors don’t seem to have a particularly strong grasp of English.
While not quite as bad as some examples I have, the version of the Panchatantra or the volumes of Bengali folk tales that you literally have to subedit as you read for example, it does let the book down. Nevertheless the originality of the ideas behind the stories still shines through.