Sachin Kundalkar was 22 when he started writing his first book in Marathi in 2000. A newcomer to the entertainment industry, he was still struggling to make his mark. The book, born of a single story, soon bloomed into a full-fledged novel, Cobalt Blue, which was published by Mauj the same year.
|Cobalt Blue was originally published in 2000
Over a decade later, its English translation, done by writer Jerry Pinto, is set to be released in April under the banner of Penguin India.
“Cobalt Blue’s English translation is a novelist’s interpretation of another novelist’s idea. It was an interesting collaborative experiment,” Kundalkar said, adding that it is an honour to have the translation published by Penguin. “I’m a serious reader and I trust Penguin’s books blindly,” he said.
Kundalkar’s book is one of a series of Marathi-English translations undertaken by Penguin, in collaboration with writer Shanta Gokhale. “Gokhale recommended my book and Pinto learnt Marathi under the tutelage of Marathi writer Leela Bhagwat in order to take up the translation job.
I was unaware of all this till I received an email from Pinto, saying he really liked my language and asking me if I would like for him to translate my novel,” Kundalkar said.
An author’s fear of being lost in translation is ever present, but Kundalkar is wholly satisfied with Pinto’s efforts, for he says, Pinto has managed to achieve the unachievable — retain the soul of the original language.
“It is a delight to stumble upon the same little niceties and nuances that you had written in the past, that have now assumed a completely different, yet seemingly familiar form. Such rooted and micro-local content is an elusive catch in the English literature of India.
Pinto’s language has a beautifully sensuous texture – he has given my work an almost poetic form, and this was only possible because he’s not a mere translator but an author par excellence himself,” he added.
Cobalt Blue is the tale of a brother and a sister from a traditional middleclass Marathi family from Pune who fall in love with the same man. The entire novel comprises of two huge monologues, the brother’s and the sister’s. “I had a graph of the story in mind and I simply traced the outline.
But the subsequent journey unravelled many intricacies of human emotions. The brother’s story was what approached me first – his character held my hand and took me along to his world. Later, his sister called out to me, for she had her own story to narrate,” Kundalkar said.
The translation, he says, will target readers seeking an insight into the Indian culture and society through the medium of English literature. An ardent fan of Paul Auster and Haruki Murakami, Kundalkar also dabbles in theatre, screenplays and movie director and has made films like Nirop, Gandha and Aiyyaa in the past.
“A script, a screenplay and a novel are three thoroughly distinct art forms. Theatre and cinema work on social associations and give-and-take – it is dependent on the chemistry you share with your team.
Writing a book, on the other hand, is a deeply meditative form of expression involving total liberty. A writer creates an entirely new civilisation. I call it ‘underground work’, for it is an activity that nobody else can pry on,” he said.
Kundalkar started working on his second novel six months ago, but prefers not to divulge any details yet.
“I was completely engrossed in writing and directing plays and films for many years so I couldn’t find the ‘void’ that one requires to write a novel. I don’t know if there has been any growth in my writing in all these years but I’m sure there’s a change in perspective,” he said.
► It is a delight to stumble upon the little niceties and nuances that you had written in the past while reading the translation
- Sachin Kundalkar