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Ethics and translation - a personal perspective
Guest article:
By Roomy Naqvy
Gujarati-English-Hindi translator
Contact him via proz.com

[This guest article is in response to our poll Refusing translations on ethical, moral, political, or religious grounds?]

You might not recollect but in 2002, there were "riots" (as the Indian government put it) in Gujarat, an Indian state. In fact, what happened was a systematic massacre of Muslims after a train containing 58 Hindus was burned. It went on and on. Now, my Dad was working then and he was with the media. I am a half Muslim and a half Zoroastrian and my Dad has been a socialist. We have been liberal at our house with strong family values. We were cosmopolitan at home.

In 2002, the three English newspapers I got at my house and the English and Hindi national electronic media were criticizing the government of Gujarat for not stopping the killing of Muslims but the two Gujarati newspapers that I received at my house (from which I translated news stories and edits ) went on stating that the killing of Muslims was justified and that it happened because the 58 Hindus were killed. In fact, more than 3,000 Muslims were killed. The official figures would be in the range of 1500 deaths.

I stopped translating from the Gujarati newspapers because I wanted to keep my sanity. I was never the "religious right", nor was I a "Marxist left" -- I was the centrist. But I realized the documents that I had to translate were so biased that I couldn't do so.

Then, in 2004 or so, I got a document for translation, which showed how right-wing Hindu outfits received funds from the U.S. in the name of an earthquake or at Thanksgiving time -- and then used that money for spreading hate. I told the person who gave me the translation that I might be a bit subjective in translating it and so, he could ask someone else to do so. But he said, go ahead. I was mature enough to do a thoroughly objective translation, without trying to side with the people who wrote the document against militant/extremist Hindu groups. In any case, I was never communal and am not even now.

But those are always sensitive issues and I really think the fact that we choose to translate such texts always shows us -- how strong we are. See, if you and I don't translate it, someone always will, and that someone might hold a rather incorrect view of things, of life, of world and that can create further problems.

I have clearly ethical problems with pornography, for instance. But if I got a chance to translate it, I would like to do it at least once because it would expose me to the challenges of a linguistic kind that I might have to encounter. I guess the only kind of documents I might refuse would be pornography.

Nothing else.

Oh yes, I guess I wouldn't be working for a terrorist organization, which is another matter.


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1 Comment:

  1. Anonymous said...
    I have to disagree.

    I turned down a huge well paid project; the translation of Hubbard's scientology works and had a huge argument with the agency that was taking money from the client.

    Black as the ace of spades and I am not talking about skin deep.

    Whether you are prepared to accept it or not, you are going to be maniplated on a deeper psychological level.

    Anything extremist is going to be manupulative.

    You might be naive enough to imagine you strong but no, you are not so you will be manipulated.

    As for pornography,that's not a linguistic challenge.
    You are into it or not.

    Clients in certain countries are best avoided as well.
    It is unfortunate for the people who did not,of course, elect a military junta or a dictator...

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