Book Mark

 

Je Suis La Maison Des Etoiles

by Savita Singh

 

Publisher: Daastaan, 2008

Translators: various

 

Price: Rs. 250

 

 

  

Review of the book by Anu Aneja  

This bilingual anthology of Savita Singh's Hindi poems translated into French on facing pages is a refreshing addition to contemporary bilingual literature. While readers more familiar with either Hindi or French will be able to access the verse in one of the two languages, the bilingual reader is offered the additional opportunity of being able to traverse the distance between the two languages through the verse which conjoins them.

Savita Singh's captivating verse is replendent in sensuous imagery, while embarking on various feminist endeavours through poetic rendition. The poems abound in metaphors invoking darkness and night, dreams and sleep, through recurrent images of stars, riverboats and sensual nymphs. The sensuality expressed through the images challenges stereotypical representations of women as well as conventional ways of reading and writing about female sexuality. Night and darkness appear to offer the space within which the female body can know and admire itself, allowing a revelling in female sensuality and an embracing of female sexual desires, and a rejection of the sex-for-profit discourse of patriarchy.

At the same time, the voice of the poet is bold, and bravely rebellious, raising tyically feminist concerns such as that of the sexual objectification of women, the need for economic independence, and sexual as well as cultural liberation of women within a male dominated society.  The poems map out the space between despondency and despair on the one hand, presenting the reader with sketches of the woman who has nothing but herself to fall back on, and hope for the emancipated woman of the future on the other. The gap separates not only women from different strata of society, but also seems to exist within the same woman who at times must struggle against patriarchal pressures and at other times, finds herself on the far side of the river, riding the crest of the waves to a place where she will finally be free.

While it is widely accepted that poetry is what is lost in translation, the French translators have done an excellent job in attempting to retain the tenor, the imagery and symbolism of the original. The translations need to be complemented for not sounding like translations, but rather for being able to transcreate the verse in an original space while maintaining their fidelity to the original. Barring a very few incidents where the bilingual reader may be left questioning the choice of words or decisions of the translators, the poems are a pleasure to read in both languages.

 

Anu Aneja

Professor, School of Gender & Development Studies

Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi

 

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