Translation Immoral? Contamination, Hybridity, and Vociferous Silences in Early Twentieth-Century Translations of Sanskrit Erotic Poetry

Maddalena Italia

Abstract


In this paper I focus on a selection of early twentieth-century French, Italian, and English translations and second- and third-hand translations of the seventh-century Sanskrit anthology titled Amaruśataka, or “The hundred verses of Amaru”. The practice of comparing, collating, and inventively muddling different variants from earlier translations is the defining feature of these modern versions of the Amaruśataka, for most of their authors lacked the linguistic skills to access the original Sanskrit text. My aim is to follow and unpack the selective, comparative and combinatory process that produced each modern translation, bringing to the surface the creative rather than polluting force of this ‘translational contamination’. Paradoxically, it was often the hybrid, if not outright spurious, details of the modern versions that – acting as a litmus test of the aesthetic and moral preoccupations of their authors and projected readers – turned such texts into new and newly translatable originals.

Keywords: Reception; Translation; Sanskrit literature; erotic literature; Amaruśataka


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References


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