14 May 2006

Mr. and Ms. Malaprop, we presume

We are not talking about typos as in an English translation of Kathasaritasagar ("my lather is very ill") or about wholesale hilarity on the order of Conversational Bashghali ("thy bride is a girl" "what o'clock is it?") that Eric Newby mentions in his book on trekking in the Hindu Kush. Desi readers enjoy a malicious chuckle whenever they come across an obviously wrong translation or transliteration of a phrase from a south Asian language. We know we do. Travel guidebooks are a good source of amusement for us. One shoestring guide had an Hindi equivalent for "what is the way to?" which really meant "what is the best way to get lost?" No doubt the wag who did that had as much schadenfreude imagining travellers faced by grinning desis as we do, a little sadistically we admit, when we come across gaffes in E.M. Forster or H.R.F. Keating or the ones perpetrated by the British Gazetteer. The reach of south Asian fiction is global. So who has the capacity to edit this fiction which has grown beyond its borders? How many Sonny Mehtas are there in the global publishing field who can do line edits of these texts if needed? We'll return to this in a post on Rushdie but the question of mistakes in art beckons.

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