Reading Shakespeare in Punjabi

3857.bilingualism.jpgTo be or not to be? Well, apparently for Surjit Singh Hans – it is to be. Hans, an academia based in Mohali, is undergoing the feat of translating Shakespeare’s work into Punjabi. Hans retired from Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, where he had once been head of the department of history having done extensive work on Sikh literary sources and in particular the Janamsakhis. Hehas been working on this task for the past sixteen years.

The translation follows the original line by lineyou want to locate line 20, Act II, scene (i), in the Arden edition of Hamlet, all you have to do is look at the corresponding line in the translation. The iambic pentameter of Shakespeare has given way to the chaupai in Punjabi, but what matters is that these lines are almost as resonant in Punjabi as they are in the original English. They work well when read aloud, as Shakespeare is meant to be, and there is little here that a Punjabi cant take to heart. Indeed, the heavy-headed revelry takes from our achievements, though performed at height. [link]

As for how well Shakespeare’s work translates into Punjabi, Hans suggests that King John could parallel the story of Aurangzeb and Two Noble Kinsmen could be a scene out of a Punjabi village (two men, one girl – hardly promising).

From Hamlet:

Ih jo sir-bhare da raunak mela poorab te ki paschim/ Dooje mulkan vich ki saadi badnaami hai karda bhandi/ Saanu zor piakkad kehnde, soor labede shabda naki/ Paun kunaun ki gande mande; te ki vatta lagda rahinda/ Koi rahi praapti saadi, bhaanve sikhar kamai hove/ Jo saddi vadiahi vaala ki sati bhav hai jaanda lagdai

(This heavy-headed revel east and west/ Makes us traduced and taxd of other nations; They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase/ Soil our addition; and indeed it takes /From our achievements, though performd at height, The pith and marrow of our attribute)

As stated by Hans, one of the difficulties of translating this work is that even in English many words no longer mean what they meant during Shakespeare’s times. Add a language spin to that, and there is the risk that the meaning gets lost. Nevertheless, the task is a worthy one – for being able to share the words of Love Labour Lost with Punjabi speakers is a notable endeavor. I’m a strong believer in translating more works like this.

So the question is not To be or not to be but rather, jina ki nahin jina.


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12 Responses to “Reading Shakespeare in Punjabi”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by William Shakespeare, langarhall. langarhall said: New TLH Post – Reading Shakespeare in Punjabi | The Langar Hall http://bit.ly/4C1tp0 […]

  2. Harinder says:

    If each one of us could translate even one book in our life time from what ever language to Punjabi.

    Punjabi would become AKAL (timeless)and one more store house of universal knowledge

  3. Harinder says:

    If each one of us could translate even one book in our life time from what ever language to Punjabi.
    Punjabi would become AKAL (timeless)and one more store house of universal knowledge

  4. Harinder says:

    If each one if us could translate even one book in our life time into Punjabi .
    It would enrich Punjabi language so much

  5. Harinder says:

    If each one if us could translate even one book in our life time into Punjabi .
    It would enrich Punjabi language so much

  6. Harinder says:

    I believe it to be also a form of KAR SEVA

  7. Harinder says:

    I believe it to be also a form of KAR SEVA

  8. Rana says:

    Very Good!! Roop maybe you should put your energies here, if you ever bore of the Punjabi Science Fiction you write. I applaud Hans

  9. Rana says:

    Very Good!! Roop maybe you should put your energies here, if you ever bore of the Punjabi Science Fiction you write. I applaud Hans

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