Friday, April 18, 2014

Authors, translators, and "political publishers"

The English translation of a Tamil novel finds itself in a limbo because the translator and the publisher do not like the political views of the original author, Joe D'Cruz -- specifically, his statement explaining why he wants Narendra Modi to be the next Prime Minister of India. You can read D'Cruz's statement, as well as that from the publisher over at Outlook.

The key sentence in Navayana's press release is this: "However, there cannot be a place for such an author in a political publishing house like Navayana." [Bold emphasis added]

In an opinion piece in Outlook entitled Public Stories, Private Censorship, Gautam Bhatia says this case should disturb liberals as much as did Penguin's handling of Wendy Doniger's book:

... Navyana’s decision is problematic because it merely adds to a public culture where private and public censorship is becoming the norm rather than the exception. For every Salman Rushdie, for every Taslima Nasreen, for every Wendy Doniger, and for every Joe D’Cruz, the foundations of our society’s public commitment to free speech are weakened, and the fragile edifice moves one blow closer to crumbling. Free speech liberals should accept Navyana’s legal right to do what it did, but nonetheless condemn its actions with the same vigour that they condemned the actions of Penguin.

While I agree with the broad thrust of Bhatia's argument, I don't think he has an open-and-shut case here because, in addition to D'Cruz, the author, and Anand, the publisher, there is also V. Geetha, the translator, who has taken a strong stand that "I [Geetha] cannot bring myself to allow my translation to be published."

In the meantime, Anand is said to be reconsidering his earlier stand. Who knows, maybe Geetha will also relent, and let her translation be published.


  1. Guru said...

    Dear Abi:

    Mukul Kesavan has a piece in The Telegraph: