Sakuntala

Author: 
Figueira, Dorothy Matilda
Year: 
1985


     This is a study of nineteenth-century translations of various recensions of Kalidasa's Sakuntala, into English, French, German, and Italian. "In this study, the translations will be analyzed for grammatical and lexical errors and cultural distortions. For all the translations the same excerpt has been chosen. It is a continuous passage comprising the first half of the Fifth Act and includes the final passage from the same act. . . . The combination of characters, the variety of Prakrits and their alternation with Sanskrit, the absence of a chaya and the uniformity between recensions [for this passage] all offer an excellent opportunity to visualize clearly and concisely what grammatical and cultural distortions were being made. These grammatical and cultural errors . . . [are] grouped into trends and patterns. In the case of translations, particularly when the idiom is not fully understood, difficult passages bear the stamp of the translators' preconceptions and interests in the form of omissions, additions, distortions and emphasis. An analysis of each translation of the entire play corroborates each translator's idiosyncratic pattern of translational errors . . . As has been duly noted, Sakuntala's life was not only a scholarly one. She touched her readers' lives in many different ways; her story was adapted, parodied, criticized and mystified. In the same way that the translations mirror a translator's preconceptions and interests, the criticism and popular commentary reflect biases with which these writers perceive this play. The translator, critic and adapter choose certain aspects of the text as a focus; this becomes a personal statement of their horizon of expectation for the text. In this sense, the text is no longer itself, but is transformed by the prejudices of the translator or reader. This 'transformation' of the text . . . [is] the object of our study."
     This study is based on the translations by Sir William Jones (1789), Georg Forster (1791), A. Brugui