Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Sherlock Holmes story written in Kannada in 1916 by Kerur Vasudevacharya!! My English translation of it published in Translation Today journal ...

Translation Today in its latest issue (Vol. 11 No. 1, 2017) has published my English translation of Kerur Vasudevacharya’s short story Vismayajanakavada Himseya Kramavu titled An Astonishing Method of Torture.  The Kannada original was written in 1916, a hundred years ago, and this translation, in a sense, is a centenary commemoration of this unique story.

This is the link to the translation on Translation Today’s website … 

http://www.ntm.org.in/download/ttvol/volume11-1/Art_10.pdf  

I had also written a ‘prologue’ to the translation of this story to situate the story in its context and also as a sort of case I made out for why I chose to translate this story.  For reasons of space, probably, the ‘prologue’ was not published along with the translation.  I was informed that the prologue would not be included, but I wanted this unique story to get some sort of limelight.  But without the ‘prologue,’ which provides the rationale, the English translation, as a standalone story, would hardly make any sense.  So, here is a very brief introduction, taken from the ‘prologue.’

This is one of the three ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories that Kerur Vasudevacharya ‘wrote.’  This Sherlock Holmes story, based on all existing indications, is probably one of the earliest or possibly even the first non-canonical pastiche Sherlock Holmes story (i.e. not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!) to have been written in any Indian language.  This story was originally written in Kannada in 1916 by Kerur Vasudevacharya and appeared in a Kannada magazine called Sachitra Bharata, under the title Vismayajanakavada Himseya Kramavu

Kerur Vasudevacharya

(portrait taken from the cover of Vol. 1 of his collected works
published by Manohara Granthamala in 2007
)
Among the short stories that Kerur Vasudevacharya ‘wrote’ are three ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories.  Two of these are ‘rewritten’ (adapted translations) from their English originals – one of the stories is a rewriting of The Adventures of a Dying Detective, adapted into Kannada as Aparaadhigala Samshodhakanu Maranonmukhanadaddu and the other is a rewriting of Silver Blaze, adapted into Kannada as Belli Chikke.  These two adapted Holmes stories are typical of the translation/adaptation methods (from English) prevalent at that time in Kannada literature.  The original literary work as a whole is Kannad-ised, with everything being ‘trans’ported to Kannada speaking locales, and in both Kannada adaptations the names of the detective and his ‘associate’ are ‘trans’created in such a way that there is close phonetic similarity between the original English names and the adapted Kannada ones. 

A detailed reading of the Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle revealed that Vismayajanakavada Himseya Kramavu is not a translation of any of the canonical Sherlock Holmes stories.  So, from all indications, this story is a non-canonical/pastiche Holmes story, conceived, created, and written by Kerur in Kannada.  Once this fact was established, an Internet research revealed a database of 8865 (till the most recent update; accessed latest on 30-12-2016) non-canonical pastiche Sherlock Holmes stories created by Sherlockian scholar Philip K. Jones of the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit, Michigan (http://bakerstreetdozen.com/SHERLOCK.xls). 

This database contains details such as title, author, source/collection, format, media, and principal character/s (other than Sherlock Holmes).  A search within this database, especially in the title section (using many synonyms of the word ‘torture’) and principal character/s section (using the names of main characters, Valentine Digby and Diana Campbell) showed that there was no story with the title that had the same meaning as the one translated and none of the stories had either of these two names as their main characters. 

It is quite possible that Vasudevacharya took a non-canonical pastiche Holmes story available at the time, changed the names of the principal characters and translated it into Kannada.  The other question is, even if Vasudevacharya had translated this story from a ‘hypothetical’ non-canonical Holmes story, what prevented him from localising this story too.  It is slightly intriguing to note that Vasudevacharya, who went to such lengths to give phonetically similar names in Kannada to Holmes and Watson, and created a local flavour and milieu, and added more characters, to recreate, rewrite, and assimilate Silver Blaze and The Adventures of a Dying Detective into Kannada, chose not to change anything except the language, in case of this story, if this story is indeed a translation from an English original.  Is it possible that Vasudevacharya wanted to show he was capable or writing an ‘original’ Holmes story and he wanted to do it as Conan Doyle did it, by keeping everyone and everything where they originally belonged, and not by Kannad-ising them?  Vasudevacharya himself offers no explanation or clue anywhere.

So, read away ... and let me know ... 

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