Translating Astérix: an enormous but fulfilling task!

Dipa Chaudhuri and Puneet Gupta have recently won the Romain Rolland Book Prize for the first three albums of the Astérix series: Asterix and the Golden Sickle, Asterix and the Goths and Asterix the Gladiator, which were translated from French to Hindi. Here’s more on this enjoyable translation project.

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Om Books International, acquired the Hindi translation rights of The Adventures of Asterix from Hachette Livres, France. The comics were co-translated by Dipa Chaudhuri, Chief Editor, Om Books International, and Puneet Gupta, an advertising professional and a producer of audio visuals, who writes science fiction novels, short stories and humorous poetry in Hindi.

Translating comics: a challenging task

“At the outset, we realised translating comics have practical constraints. The first and immediate constraint is fitting the Hindi translation into each speech bubble, despite Hindi being syntactically different from French, and also because of the maatras on the top, bottom and the side (in French, the accents are only on the top and bottom). Moreover, while the French comics are hand-written, we had to look for a similar font in Hindi that could be typed out on the keyboard. At times, we needed to choose different fonts that would establish the distinct accent with which a Goth would speak. Besides the fonts, we had to ensure that each linguistic community spoke with the accents phonetically associated with it,” tells Dipa.

“Apart from Asterix and Obelix, the various gods and goddesses, and historical figure like Julius Caesar, Vercingetorix, Cleopatra, whose names remain unchanged, renaming the characters, designations, geographical coordinates was a challenging exercise as each name in French and in Hindi has multiple meanings,” she adds.

“As we went along, it became clear that we were translating not only from French to Hindi, but depending on the provenance of the protagonist, we were translating from Latin, and on occasion, German too. This shall only get more complicated as Asterix and Obelix travel out to Britain, Egypt, Corsica, Spain, India, amongst other places. So before translating the nuances into Hindi, we shall have to go into the etymology of the words, the idioms, the phraseology of the region in which the Asterix and Obelix find themselves,” adds Dipa as a matter of fact.

“For every proverb, popular joke and clever turns of phrase in French, we hunted for a befitting equivalence in Hindi to ensure that the punch, wit and humour of the original were not lost in translation,” adds Dipa. “Having said that, what takes precedence over all else, the genre notwithstanding, is how effectively the narrative is communicated, not converted, from a source language into the target language, both with their particular cultural sensibilities, word plays, humour, linguistic structures and idiosyncrasies, etc.”

More about the project…

This translation project has been partly sponsored by the PAP Tagore Programme in Paris and locally by the Institut Français en Inde.

“Indians being polyglots, read in multiple languages, and there is already a huge readership of Asterix in English in India, a country that has had a very strong tradition of comics not only in English and Hindi, but in several regional languages as well. Asterix is Hindi is not only for the strictly Hindiphone readers, but for comic buffs and collectors, artists, ethnographers, educational institutions, across linguistic boundaries and across India and the world,” tells Dipa.

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