ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Creative Destructiveness

In translating Vishwas Patil’s A Dirge for the Damned, Keerti Ramachandra has managed to convey the ire of those who are today the invisible casualties of Indian modernity.

To translate (traduire, in French) can also mean, in yet another context, to bring someone to court (en justice). This is, I believe, what Keerti Ramachandra has achieved in A Dirge for the Damned (2014), her English translation of Vishwas Patil’s Marathi novel Jhadajhadati, by lending an ear and transcribing the ire of those who are today the invisible casualties of Indian modernity. If translating oneself across languages and cultures helps one resist the monolithic nature of identity markers, translation is not a free-floating signifier either. It carries along with it the indelible trace of multiple crossings, each trace the living proof of those past and present discontinuities caused by chaotic economic development in India.

Exodus, famine and illiteracy are all contemporary ills in India, part of a pastoral imaginary created out of modernising processes and the internal displacement of whole populations into city-slums and town-camps, following the destruction of their traditional habitat: “Where earlier there were no paths for even bullock carts, now horse and ox carts carrying coal plied continuously. Before long, the heart of the jungle was hollowed out” (p 114). This destructive act of creativeness, through business ventures such as the building of giant dams all over the country, gives way to a kind of modernist irony in Patil’s prose. Supposedly meant to fight the drought and allow for the irrigation of an entire region and village community, the dam project that is at the origin of the Jambhli inhabitants’ woes is seen overflowing in excess with Biblical images of eschatological flooding and deluge: “Now, checked by the dam, it [water] rushed back with a vengeance, devouring everything in its path. The terrified Jambhlikars watched their green fields disappear under angry red water” (p 155).

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