South Asian Literature in Translation: The Last Salute

The Last Salute by Santosh Kumar Ghosh; translated from Bengali into English by Ketaki Datta

Publication date: 1 January 2013
Publisher: Sahitya Akademi
ISBN-13: 978-8126033386

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

KD: This is a touching story, originally written in Bengali and published in 1971 by the renowned Sahitya Akademi Award winner, Santosh Kumar Ghosh.  Shesh Namaskar, or The Last Salute, is the story of a young man, deeply innocent and naive and drifting aimlessly. The political backdrop is intriguing as India was yet to achieve independence. His father dreamed of contributing to the freedom struggle by setting up an indigenous chemical firm. A wanderer, as he was, the young man’s mother tried to raise him with the help of a so-called uncle. The young man, however, accused his mother of an illicit relationship with the uncle. She could not bear this false accusation and left home for good. The novel is a long letter addressed to the lost mother, whom he searched for until the end but to no avail. In this last tribute of reverence, he seeks forgiveness from his mother just before his death.

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

KD: I was drawn to the narrative technique of the original Bengali novel as well its emotive content. I was driven to tears after finishing my reading. Immediately, I wrote to the Sahitya Akademi in New Delhi to find out whether it had already been translated into Bengali. As they gave the green light, I was doubly enthused to translate it.

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

KD: I faced umpteen problems with culture-specific words, botanical names, and above all,  retaining the emotive appeal of the original novel in the translated one. Later on, as the reviews praised my pen, I understood it was worth facing all challenges during this strenuous journey.

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

KD: When this novel was published in Bengali in 1971, the plaintive undertone of the work touched the inner chords of every sensitive soul. The meaning of the word “mother” was understood anew. And herein, I entreat each serious reader to read this translation, especially if he is a non-Bengali or a non-Indian. Shesh Namaskar is a gem of Bengali literature, no doubt.

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

KD: Recently, I’ve translated ‘Udvastu’ or ‘The Refugees’, a story based on the Partition of Bengal and originally written by Debesh Roy, who passed away earlier this year. This is going to be published in a collection of Partition Tales by Niyogi Books, New Delhi. I’m looking forward to the publication of my translation of a short story by Nazrul. A translated travelogue is also in the pipeline.

Author Bio: Santosh Kumar Ghosh [1920-1985] was a journalist and writer, who introduced innovative fictional forms in Bengali literature. A deeply sensitive writer, Ghosh was sympathetic to the oppressed class. His debut novel was Kinu Goalar Goli [1950]. It was followed by Nana Ranger Dinguli [1952], Jol Dao [1967], Swayam Nayak [1969], Shesh Namaskar [1971]. He had won prestigious awards like the Ananda Purashkar [1971], Sahitya Akademi Award [1972], and many more. [Image Source: Wikipedia]

Translator Bio: Ketaki Datta (M.A., Ph.D.) is an Associate Professor of English, Bidhannagar Govt. College, Kolkata. In addition to two novels, two poetry collections, and a number of academic publications, Datta has published a considerable number of translated works. She started her career in translation as a regular contributor to Indian Literature [Sahitya Akademi] and Pratibha India [New Delhi]. Her translated novels include The Voyage (Paadi by Jarasandha, Booksway, 2008), The Last Salute (Shesh Namaskar by Santosh Kumar Ghosh, Sahitya Akademi, 2013). She has translated the Selected Stories of Rabindranath Tagore (Avenel Press, Kolkata, 2015), ‘Kumarsambhab O Sakuntala’ in Pracin Sahitya by Rabindranath Tagore (Visva Bharati in collaboration with CENTIL, Jadavpur University, 2018), an essay in Bankinchandra’s Bangadarshan (ed. Tapati Gupta, Dasgupta and Co. Kolkata, 2009), and many more. [Image Source: Ketaki Datta.]

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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