Brecht in Kannada: Translation and Performances


  • H K Raghavendra Department of Translations Studies, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India


Within Translation Studies, theatre translation or drama translation as a special area of translation is being spoken about for nearly 3 decades now. But, not much work has happened in this field. This study looks at theatre translation and performances of the translated plays of Brecht in Kannada. It attempts to trace the trajectory of translations of the plays of Brecht and multiple versions of the same plays; almost all of them have been translations carried out in order to be performed on stage.

This project has been able to trace twenty-eight translations of the plays of Brecht in Kannada, out of which twenty are published and eight are unpublished. Even the published plays were published after several years, sometimes decades later, after successful performances. The connection between Brecht and Kannada theatre came to be established in the 1970s, which was the decade of social transformations and turmoil in Kannada publish sphere. This was the time when Left movement (both Marxist as well as Lohiaite versions) became prominent in Kannada public sphere, on the cultural front. In literature we see the rise of Dalit and Bandaya movements; this was followed by the rise of Muslim and Women's voices. There seems to be a perfect match between the plays of Brecht and the socio-political context of Karnataka in 1970s and 80s.

This project has two main questions:

1. How did this match between socio-political context of Karnataka and the plays of Brecht happen? This will be answered by undertaking a comparative study of the selected plays of Brecht in English and in Kannada. In Kannada most of the translations use domestication technique to bring out this parity between the ideological concerns of the plays of Brecht with that of the Kannada public sphere. Even in those translations where domestication technique is not adopted at the level of the play but only at the local/particular level, such as at the level of words/concepts, there is an attempt to bring parity between the two contexts. All these are examined in four main chapters which present my analysis, the chapters being chapter 4, which looks at the question of multiple translations of two selected plays of Brecht; chapter 5, where I look at the unpublished multiple translations of two selected plays of Brecht; chapter 6 where I specifically look at how songs are translated in two selected plays and in their multiple versions; and chapter 7 where I look at other translations of the plays of Brecht. In order to understand this question, the required data is also culled out from paratextual elements in terms of when and how the translation was commissioned, where it was performed, organizations/ individuals involved in translation and performance etc. Thus the question of what triggered the translations of Brecht in Kannada and what function the translations/performances served in the target culture are analysed.

2. The second question that this project explores is that of the question of theatre translation and its nature. For this the translation of Brecht's plays are divided into 3 main categories: Published, Unpublished and Songs. In the chapter that looks at published plays, I have looked at the time gap between the translation/ performance and publication. This gap is a unique feature of the translations carried out for the purpose of staging/performing a play. In the chapter that looks at the unpublished plays, my attention is on the jottings, comments, scribbling that the manuscript or the type-script contains as that reveals a lot about the adjustments/modifications that a translation undergoes for the sake of performance. In these jottings we also find sometimes stage setting, movements of the character marked by the director. Song/music is culture- specific and they always have performative dimension. Thus a chapter is devoted to look at the translations of songs. What I have encountered in translation of songs is that the songs are translated not by the main translator but by others; sometimes they are noted poets in the target language, thus rendering the translation of plays as a collaborative venture though the title pages do not mention these collaborations. Sometimes musical notations (Raaga, Taala) are also mentioned along with the songs in the manuscripts. 

In the first chapter, I have given a brief introduction to the project, the way I collected the data and methodological issues. It also contains a note on the scope of the present project. The second chapter is a chapter which summarizes earlier literature on the two questions that this project is probing; apart from that it also talks about Brecht in pan-Indian context by using the secondary sources. The third chapter constructs the history of German translations into Kannada, and also carries statistical analysis of the translations from German into Kannada in terms of Genre, Author, and Texts as variables. Chapters 4 to 7 document the analysis of the translations in terms of published translations, unpublished translations, songs and other translations. Chapter 8 is a concluding chapter. 
This dissertation also contains at the end a list of plays in Kannada translation of Brecht, a few of the reviews of the performances, 172 photographs collected during the fieldwork mainly of the performances of the plays of Brecht in Kannada as Appendix. The Appendix also has three versions of the songs (English, Kannada and Kannada) from two plays, which were analysed in chapter number 6.




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