Recipe for Well-Written Translation with Shanta Gokhale


  • 225g of trust between the Publisher and the Translator
  • 350g of sensitive treatment of the text by the Translator
  • 1 tbsp of the translator’s ability to retain the power of words when reproducing regional words into English
  • 5 tbsp of conveying the power of the spoken word, especially in plays
  • 25 g of capturing the speech rhythm of characters
  • 1 tsp of responding to unsaid things in the original i.e. translating subtleties along with words
  • A pinch of not taking any unfair liberties with the translation. A translation must remain a translation and not a recreation

CAUTION: Please avoid adding half-baked egg(head)s who run the risk of abandoning the entire project halfway after having agreed to bring out the translated version. Ms Shanta Gokhale recalls how one of her translation projects was stalled midway, owing to a major falling out between the editor and the publisher—after the translation had finished and the book had been printed. Printed copies were simply stored, with no plans of seeing the light of day on the publisher’s part. This case stands as a reminder of moral failure.

NOTE: Ms Gokhale also recollects with much enthusiasm and nostalgia an event which she fondly calls ‘the Jerry Pinto intervention in the Embers affair’ where the author of the famous Em and the Big Hoom pointed out to the by-then-exasperated translator that any contract made with the publisher stands automatically cancelled if the book isn’t out in bookstores five years after the manuscript has been received.


Depends on the agreement between the writer and publisher, and between publisher and translator.


May take approximately six months for a book to be translated. May vary from translator to translator, depending on individual taste.


Thousands of English readers across the world.


A sum of Rs 5,000.00 to be paid to the Author, Rs 4,000.00 to be paid to the Publisher and Rs 3,000.00 to be paid to the Translator. Again, may vary depending on the Author, Publisher and Translator.


  1. The publisher looks for a translator and commissions a translation.
  2. The publisher approaches an established translator—a name that will help sell as many copies of the book as possible.
  3. The translator goes from publisher to publisher till the project is accepted.
  4. The translator translates dead authors—the safest of all scenarios because the translator does not have the delightful pleasure of dealing with the author and can personally work on the book.


  • Academic translation: Often longer than the original, academic translations usually contain translations as well as interpretations of the words and themes in the original text. Such translations retain the risk of the loss of the author’s voice and may end up too ponderous, thus, flavourless.
  • Creative translation: Based on the translator’s intention, creative translations retain important aspects of the original, such as, sentence structure, rhythm of speech of characters, and preserve the writer’s style and voice. Ms Shanta Gokhale, the renowned mistress of Marathi and English translations, states that creative translations render ‘faithful justice to the original’.

CAUTION: Readers are strictly advised to follow any ONE of the above-mentioned methods. The fusion of the two might result in an explosion of bad and messy translation all over the pages.

NOTE: Do not attempt to use unfamiliar equipment while translating as it might result in undercooking or overcooking the original. Do not, under any circumstance, misplace the recipe. Ms Gokhale frankly says that being technologically challenged [something I can relate to] led to her accidentally deleting several pages of her translations. She humorously states, ‘I’m so hopeless with computers. They so defeat me.’ But she optimistically adds that she has rewritten all those lost pages ‘without batting an eyelid!’


A heart-warming and interesting conversation on translation interspersed with fun and charming anecdotes by Ms Shanta Gokhale.

Recipe by Sai Prasanna

© 2015 Seagull School of Publishing

All Rights Reserved


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