Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Updates on Cuneiform, Fixers and the Booker


Update on cuneiform


Last year there was a post on this blog about George Smith, the first decoder and translator of cuneiform writing. To retrieve it, enter george smith in the search box on the right. Now the BBC has produced a video about the significance of his work; it’s elementary but good for school use. To view it, go to




or click [HERE].


Update on fixers

Fixer is a term that came into fashion during the Afghan war. It designated interpreters for the military and for journalists, and whose tasks went well beyond language translation. To find our several posts about them, enter fixers in the Search box on the right.  With the demise of Western intervention in Afghanistan the term has become less common, but it will surely persist.


Now a French documentary film about them has come out.


"The local helpers known as fixers are vital for journalists working in countries where there is conflict and political instability. A documentary by a French reporter highlights the dedication of his contacts in Afghanistan, Mexico, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ukraine. French reporter Charles Villa’s documentary Fixers is a tribute to those behind the scenes. Fixers are the “bridge” between the many actors in the field and journalists, providing anything from contacts, translation, transport, even, sometimes, accommodation."

For more, go to


or click [HERE].


Never without my fixer: French documentary a shout-out to hidden colleagues. 

Yahoo News, 12 June 2022.

Update on Indian literary translation


A bee that has been buzzing around this blog for years is the lack of attention paid in the West to Indian literary translation, even in academic circles, notwithstanding the enormous amount of such translation due to the number of live Indian languages and the persistence of English as a lingua franca.  For examples of our concern, enter india in the Search box on the right.


But now attention has momentarily exploded because the English translation of an Indian novel has won the coveted International Booker Prize. The novel is Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand.


The publicity for Tomb of Sand is very welcome. Nevertheless it has some quirks. Pavan Varma’s article referenced below discusses the reaction in India itself:

“I am proud and very happy for Geetanjali. She fully deserves this belated recognition. But I would have been even happier if her creativity was more befittingly recognised in her own country before the Booker Prize.”

There is a danger that Westerners unacquainted with India may jump to the conclusion that Hindi is the country’s most important literary language and remain ignorant of other riches like Tamil. One surprise is that the translator, despite the ready availability of English translators in India, is an American. This is not to downplay the quality of the translation, which has been widely praised; and no doubt its quality was a factor in the Booker decision. Nevertheless, it is sometimes said that a translation should sound as if the original author were speaking.  So we may wonder whether the work might not sound more genuine in the voice of an Indian translator using the slightly nuanced dialect of Indian English. Just wondering.



Geetanjali Shree. Tomb of Sand. Translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell. Haryana: Penguin, 2022.

Pavan K. Varma. A publishing wasteland: India needs translations. The Asian Age, 12 June 2022.  

No comments:

Post a Comment