“Translations help universal appreciation of culture, nuances and social conventions”

share Sridhar Balan, Senior Consultant, Ratna Books and Dinesh Sinha, Executive Editor, Ratna Books, in conversation with Varsha Verma. Here’s more on Ratna Books and the quality translations they do.

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Ratna Books is an imprint of Ratna Sagar, for bringing translations of Indian language books into English. We are working on a wide spectrum and we are translating both full-length works and short stories,” tells Sridhar Balan, Senior Consultant, Ratna Books, an imprint of Ratna Sagar. “It is different from other publishing houses, which have translations as a smaller component of their overall publishing list. At Ratna Books, we are focusing only on translations.”

“Beyond fiction, we are also looking to publish non-fiction, which would include autobiographies, collection of essays, etc. We are focusing on fiction at this point of time,” adds Dinesh Sinha, Executive Editor, Ratna Books.

On Ratna Books…

Talking more about Ratna Books, Sridhar adds, “We have tried to keep our books as different as possible. The whole product and physical get up is different. The colour and paper is distinct. All books are very well designed and are hard-bound. Since the launch in October 2017, we have published four books and two more are scheduled to be launched on June 1, 2018.”

The titles published by Ratna Books include The Sixth Finger, After Yesterday, A Faceless Evening and If a River. The two new ones are On a River’s Bank and Echoes of the Veena.

“Our books are meant for people who appreciate fine works,” adds Dinesh. “We are looking at translations from all languages in India. So far, we have translated works from Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam and Assamese. Forthcoming translations are from Telugu, Gujarati, Bengali, etc. Every book we bring out has a distinct design element, which sets it apart from other books.”

Making books universal…

“It is important to realise that original language content has its own flavour and market but when it is translated into English language, it has a much wider audience. Suddenly, the market becomes universal. So, there is a universal appreciation of culture, nuances, social conventions and so on and so forth. There is a cohesive understanding of each culture. But this, again, has its own challenges. A book in English has to compete with so many other books,” explains Sridhar.

“Books promote national integration. We have a rich literary tradition and we should appreciate it. What better way than books!” adds Dinesh.

“When you publish a translation work, it also brings original language to focus. In fact, it is a symbiotic relationship between original and translated work,” adds Sridhar.

Finding books…

On asking about how they find projects and translators, Sridhar shares, “Sometimes, we locate translators while sometimes they approach us directly. But, we know that translations are not about word to word translations, the subtleties have to be maintained.” tells Sridhar.

“We pick up a book, where the translator is possessed by the original work. They are so consumed by it that they are looking for an opportunity to translate it,” he adds.

“But, translations are not easy. English language has its own limitations. Languages like Telugu are very flowing, making it a tough task to maintain the originality of content in English. But, so far, we have succeeded in maintaining it, with the help of good translators and editors,” tells Dinesh.

Not just translations…

“We take care that each book reads like work of English. We do not give any translator’s note. Neither do we give footnotes or glossary. It should read like an original work,” tells Dinesh. To which, Sridhar adds, “We want nothing to constrain the beauty of reading. We want the reader to forget that she is reading a translated book.”

On distribution…

“Selling books is not easy. We have different distribution channels but there are a lot of books, clamouring for space and attention. So, getting noticed is a difficult task. Here, promotional activities like book launch events, panel discussions, etc become very important. The discussions can not only revolve around the book but can be more academic and focus on certain issues,” tells Sridhar as a matter of fact.

Another challenge which Sridhar mentions is shrinking print space for book reviews. “Book reviews have become fewer,” he says.

But Ratna Books is handling all these challenges determinedly. “We are here to stay and our books have a long shelf life,” he says.

On a concluding note…

“We have exciting plans for the future. We wish to cover all languages. So far, we have got very positive feedback from readers, critics and booksellers. We hope more and more people will appreciate the books and we wish to reach all those who are interested in good literature,” concludes Sridhar.

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