South Asian Literature in Translation: The Rock That Was Not

The Rock That Was Not by Githanjali; translated from Telugu to English by K. Suneetha Rani

Publication date: 2 September 2019
Publisher: Ratna Books, India
ISBN-10: 9352907388
ISBN-13: 978-9352907380

1) Tell us about this book and its original author.

KSR: The Rock that was Not is a collection of 12 short stories written by Githanjali in Telugu. These stories deal with gender, sexuality, domestic violence, sexual assault, and women’s protest. Githanjali, a medical doctor and a psychotherapist, has been closely working with women for more than three decades. Here, she explores the day-to-day issues in a woman’s life, which are generally not talked about or for which society has only a male perspective. The stories depict how women are labeled, isolated, and stigmatized; how they are often made to suffer the trauma of being treated as breasts, a vagina, a womb, or a punching bag. Like a deft surgeon, Githanjali identifies and separates the malignancies corroding our sociocultural fabric. With their path-breaking themes, these are the stories of resistance, protest, and transformation. Eleven of the twelve stories in this collection are taken from Githanjali’s latest book of short stories in Telugu, titled Husband Stitch: Strila Laingika Vishada Gadhalu (Husband Stitch: Tragic Stories of Women’s Sexuality.)

2) Why were you drawn to choose the book for translation?

KSR: I felt connected with these stories on two levels: as a passionate reader who is always exploring the pathbreaking writing, particularly by women; and as a researcher and teacher of Gender Studies who is always in search of new horizons in the field. These stories unveil new dimensions of the gender question by addressing and discussing issues of sexuality that people generally hesitate to talk about. They represent the deepest feelings of women and their unarticulated experiences. They can become a good academic resource for sexuality studies, gender studies, and feminist studies.                   

3) What were the key challenges and surprises for you during the translation process/journey?

KSR: The pain, suffering, and suffocation of the women in these stories pushed me into a deep depression and trauma. However, their protest also inspired me to look at the agency of women from a fresh perspective. The stories, though written in Telugu, extensively use Dakhni or Deccani Urdu language in characters’ dialogues. The author’s aim was to present Muslim women’s experiences in their own tongue. However, while this posed a challenge in translation, it also helped me understand the text in its multiple dimensions.

4) What’s one thing you wish readers knew or appreciated more about this book?

KSR: I hope that readers appreciate the depths of women’s experiences and protests represented in these stories without dismissing them as exaggeration, obsession, or trivialities. Also, I hope that readers understand how the politics of language is a major conditioning factor for women and why we need to liberate languages from all forms of hierarchies and restrictions to create a new register of expression. 

5) What’s your next translation project that we can look forward to?

KSR: I have recently submitted the draft of an anthology of critical writings, Critical Discourse in Telugu, in English translation to Routledge Books. I’ve edited this book and also translated some of the excerpts along with other translators. My discussions are on and with the author of The Rock that was Not, Githanjali, to translate her novel Ame Adavini Jayinchindi (She Conquered the Jungle.) Most probably, this will be my next full-length translation. This book uses the stream-of-consciousness technique to explore heterosexual relationships caught in the control of social and cultural agencies.

Author Bio: Githanjali (Dr. Bharathi) is a medical doctor practising as a sexologist, psychotherapist, and marital counselor in Hyderabad, India. She has been writing in Telugu for the past thirty-five years. Her published collections of short stories are Bachhedaani (The Child Pouch; 2003), Pehechan: Muslim Streela Astitva Kathala Sankalanam (Identity: Stories about Muslim Women’s Identities; 2007), Palamuru Valasa Batuku Chitralu (Portraits of Palamuru Migrant Life; 2015), Husband Stitch: Streela Vishada Laingika Gadhalu (Husband Stitch: Stories of Women’s Sexuality; 2018), Stoma: Husband Stitch Part 2 (Exclusively for Men; 2020). Other works include a novel, Ame Adavini Jayinchindi (She Conquered the Jungle; 1999), and Shringaram: Oka Vignansastram (Sexology; 2017). She has published extensively in major newspapers on literature, gender discrimination, women’s writing, and other gender-related topics. Her writings have been translated into Hindi, Kannada, Assamese, and English. Her forthcoming books include a collection of poetry, a collection of short stories, and novels on transgender identities, manual scavenging, marital rape, and academic untouchability. (Image Source: K. Suneetha Rani)

Translator Bio: Dr. K. Suneetha Rani is a professor at the Center for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad. Her areas of interest include Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Comparative Studies, New Literatures in English, and Translation Studies. She translates from Telugu to English and English to Telugu. She has extensively published research articles and translations in English and Telugu. Her Ph.D. was on Australian Aboriginal Women’s Autobiographies. She is a recipient of several prestigious fellowships in India and abroad. Her major publications in English include Australian Aboriginal Women’s Autobiographies: A Critical Study (2006), Flowering from the Soil: Dalit Women’s Writing from Telugu (Translation of Dalit women’s select writings from Telugu; 2012), English in the Dalit Context (co-editor; 2014), Vibhinna: Voices from Contemporary Telugu Writing (co-editor; 2015), A House on the Outskirts and Other Stories (translation of Devarakonda Balagangadhara Tilak’s select short fiction from Telugu; 2016), Influence of English on Indian Women Writers: Voices from the Regional Languages (2017), Identities and Assertions: Dalit Women’s Narratives (2017) and The Rock That Was Not (translation of Githanjali’s select short fiction from Telugu; 2019)An anthology, Critical Discourse in Telugu, edited by her will be published by Routledge in 2021. (Image Source: K. Suneetha Rani)

Jenny Bhatt is a writer, literary translator, and book critic. She is the host of the Desi Books podcast. Her story collection, Each of Us Killers, and her literary translation, Ratno Dholi: The Best Stories of Dhumketu, were out in 2020. Her writing has appeared in various venues in the US, UK, and India, including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, NPR, BBC Culture, Literary Hub, Longreads, Poets & Writers, and others. Having worked her way around India, England, Germany, Scotland, and various parts of the US, she now lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

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