Interiors of a library, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India. Photo: Exotica.im/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Translation Project Will Bring Literature From the South Asian Continent to English-Speaking Audiences
The SALT project aims to translate and publish 40 works by authors from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka / BY Kisha Ferguson / April 6th, 2023
An ambitious translating initiative from the University of Chicago will allow North American readers to delve into South Asia’s rich but previously inaccessible literary traditions.
Over the next five years, the South Asian Literature Translation (SALT) project aims to translate 40 books from 16 different South Asian languages and make them available to the global English-speaking audience.
The program was inspired by Jason Grunebaum, a translator and professor from the University of Chicago’s department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Daniel Hahn, a writer and translator who focuses on publicizing international novelists.
South Asian writers have been “severely under-represented” in global publishing markets, said Grunebaum and Hahn in a published statement at SALT’s launch in March, adding that, “only a minuscule number” of translated literary works ever make it out of the subcontinent.
Their translating initiative will allow North Americans to experience the “rich literary traditions” of authors from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, just as they always have with writers from Russia, France, Spain or Germany.
Beyond providing a good read, these works will cultivate insights into cultures that otherwise might have remained hidden or remote, suggests Rachel Galvin, who leads the Translation Studies program at the University of Chicago. “When we get to know the art and literature of other cultures, we can connect with those cultures and foster an understanding of other people on a human level,” says Galvin.