Ghosts, Drunkards and Bad Language: Translating the Margins of Nabarun Bhattacharya's Kāṅāl Mālsāṭ (‘The War Cry of the Beggars’)

Carola Erika Lorea


This article unfolds some problematic aspects encountered during the translation of Nabarun Bhattacharya's radical novel Kāṅāl Mālsāṭ(2003), published in Italian with the title Gli ammutinati di Calcutta(2016). I focus on the translation of the language of the margins, intended as social, ontological as well as linguistic spaces. The difficulty of translating into Italian the richness of Bengali slang in the semantic field of boozing offers an interesting case to reveal the strategies of a radical translation practice, which resists domestication (Venuti; Spivak) and endorses the unsettling use of sub-standard language(s) in order to translate the bizarre mutiny of Kāṅāl Mālsāṭand the counter-language of its author.

Keywords: Bengali literature; magic realism; reader reception; slang; jargon; social taboo; Italian; horizon of expectations;

Full Text:



Bag, Shamik. “Nabarun Bhattacharya: Offence given, and taken.” Livemint. Web. 16 March 2013.

Banerjee, Sumanta. “Bogey of the Bawdy: Changing Concept of ‘Obscenity’ in 19th Century Bengali Culture.” Economic and Political Weekly 22.29 (1987): 1197-1206. Print.

Basu, Abhra. Bāṅlā Slyāṁ: Samīkṣā O Abhidhān. Kolkata: Papyrus, 2005. Print.

Basu, Buddhadev. “Preface to the second edition.” Prajāpati. Samaresh Basu. Kolkata: Ananda Publishers, 1989. Print.

Basu, Priyanka. “Texts of Power, Acts of Dissent: Performability and Theatricality in Nabarun Bhattacharya's Short Stories.” Sanglap: Journal of Literary and Cultural Inquiry 2.1 (2015): 70-89. Web. 16 March 2016.

Basu, Samaresh. Prajāpati. Kolkata: Ananda Publishers, 1967. Print.

Bhattacharya, Nabarun. Bebi Ke Pārijāt. Kolkata: Saptārṣi Prakāśan, 2013. Print.

Bhattacharya, Nabarun. Fyātāṛur Bombācāk O Anyānya. Kolkata: Saptārṣi Prakāśan, 2004. Print.

Bhattacharya, Nabarun. Gli Ammutinati di Calcutta. Translated by Carola Erika Lorea. Milano: Metropli d'Asia, 2016. Print.

Bhattacharya, Nabarun. Hārbārṭ. Kolkata: Dey’s Publishers, 1993. Print.

Bhattacharya, Nabarun. Harbart. Translated by Arunava Sinha. Chennai: Tranquebar Press, 2011. Print.

Bhattacharya, Nabarun. Herbert: Ein Kalkutta-Roman. Translated by Hans Harder. Heidelberg: Draupadi Verlag, 2014. Print.

Bhattacharya, Nabarun. Herbert. Translated by Jyoti Panjwani. New Delhi: Sahitya Academy, 2004. Print.

Bhattacharya, Nabarun. Kāṅāl Mālsāṭ. Kolkata: Saptārṣi Prakāśan, 2003. Print.

Bhattacharya, Nabarun. Lubdhak. In Upanyās Samagra. Kolkata: Dey's Publishing, 2010. Print.

Bhattacharya, Nabarun. Śreṣṭha Galpa. Kolkata: Dey’s Publishing, 2014. Print.

Bhattacharya, Sourit. “The Margins of Postcolonial Urbanity: Reading Critical Irrealism in Nabarun Bhattacharya’s Fiction.” Postcolonial Urban Outcasts: City Margins in South Asian Literature. Ed. Madhurima Chakraborty and Umme Al-wazedi. New York: Routledge, 2017. 39-55. Print.

D'Egidio, Angela. “How Readers Perceive Translated Literary Works: an analysis of Reader Reception.” Lingue e Linguaggi 14 (2015): 69-82. Web. 16 March 2016.

Debroy, Sumitra. “Indians drinking alcohol up 55% in 20 years.” The Times of India. Web. 17 May 2015.

Dumas, Bethany K., and Jonathan Lighter. “Is Slang a Word for Linguists?” American Speech 53.1 (1978): 5-17. Print.

Eble, Connie. Slang and Sociability: In-Group Language Among College Students. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996. Print.

Eco, Umberto. Interpretazione e sovrainterpretazione: un dibattito con Richard Rorty, Jonathan Culler e Christine Brooke-Rose. Edited by Stefan Collini. Milano: Bompiani, 1995. Print.

Fischer-Tiné, Harald, and Jana Tschurenev, eds. A History of Alcohol and Drugs in Modern South Asia: Intoxicating Affairs. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Fish, Stanley. Is There A Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980. Print.

Green, Jonathon. The Vulgar Tongue: Green’s History of Slang. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Print.

Haque, Hamim Kamrul. “Jādubāstababād: Kī, Kena Kothāy ebaṁ Kībhābe.” Bāṅlā Ṭribiyun. Web. 27 August 2015.

Hříbek, Martin. “Heros from the Margins in Contemporary Bengali Fiction.” Indologica Taurinensia 40 (2014):113-130. Print.

Jauss, Hans Robert. “Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Theory.” New Literary History 2.1 (1970): 7-37. Print.

Jauss, Hans Rober. Toward an Aesthetics of Reception. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982. Print.

“Kali was always worshipped with liquor.” Zeenews. Web. 27 May 2012.

Lorea, Carola Erika. “Introduzione.” Gli Ammutinati di Calcutta. Nabarun Bhattacharya. Milano: Metropli d'Asia, 2016. 9-15. Print.

Mäkelä, Pia et al. “Drinking Patterns and Their Gender Differences in Europe.” Alcohol & Alcoholism 41.1 (2006): 8-18. Web. 27 May 2012.

Myskja, Kyetil. “Foreignization and Resistance: Lawrence Venuti and his critics.” Nordic Journal of English Studies 12.2 (2013):1-23. Web. 27 May 2016.

Mitra Channa, Subhadra. Gender in South Asia: Social Imagination and Constructed Realities. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Print.

Moinuddin, Arsalan et al. “Alcohol Consumption and Gender: A Critical Review.” Jounal of Psychology and Psychotherapy 6 (2016): n. pag. Web. 27 May 2017.

Mossop, Brian. “Positioning Readers.” Translators and Their Readers: In Homage to Eugene A. Nida. Ed. Rodica Dimitriu and Miriam Shlesinger. Brussels: Éditions du Hazard, 2009. Available at Nelson, Dean. “130 Indian villagers die of alcohol poisoning.” The Telegraph. 15 December 2011. Web.

Nida, Eugene A. Towards a Science of Translating. Leiden: Brill, 1964. Print.

Partridge, Eric. Slang: To-day and Yesterday. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1933. Print.

Perteghella, Manuela. “Language and Politics on Stage: Strategies for Translating Dialect and Slang with References to Shaw's Pygmalion and Bond's Saved.” Translation Review 64.1 (2002): 45-53. Web. 27 May 2017.

Purakayastha, Anindya Sekhar. “Fyataru and Subaltern War Cries: Nabarun Bhattacharya and the Rebirth of the Subject.” Sanglap: Journal of Literary and Cultural Inquiry 2.1 (2015): 90-102. Web. 27 May 2017.

Sengupta, Samrat. “Ideology of the Lips: Feminine Desire, Politics of Images, and Metaphorization of Body in Global Consumerism.” Boundaries of the Self: Gender, Culture and Spaces. Ed. Debalina Banerjee. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014. 177-178. Print.

Singh, Magandeep. The Indian Spirit. Gurgaon: Penguin Random House India, 2017. Print.

Sinha, Arunava. “Translations.” Arunava Sinha Wordpress. n.d. Web. 10 May. 2018.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “The Politics of Translation.” Outside in the Teaching Machine. London and New York: Routledge, 1993. 179-200. Print.

“Supplement: Nabarun Bhattacharya.” Ed. Sourit Bhattacharya and Arka Chattopadhyay. Sanglap: Journal of Literary and Cultural Inquiry 2: 1 (2015). Web. 27 May 2017.

Stolt, Robert. The Translation of Slang: Within the Bounds of Possibility? Munich: Grin, 2010. Print.

“The Punjab Excise Act 1914.” Haryana Tax Government of India. n.d. Web. 10 May. 2018.

Toury, Gideon. "The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation." Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1995. 53-69. Print.

Ulvydiene, Loreta, and Brigita Abramovaite. “Literary Style in Translation: Slang in J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.” Kalbu Studijos-Studies about Languages 20 (2012): 100-108. Web. 27 May 2017.

Urban, Hugh. Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics and Power in the Study of Religion. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. Print.

Venuti, Lawrence. The Translator's Invisibility: A History of Translation. New York: Routledge, 1995. Print.

Walters, Johanna. “'Shithole' remark by Trump makes global headlines – but it doesn't quite translate.” The Guardian. Web. 13 January 2018.

Wuytz, Celine, Sara Barbier, and Geert Loosveldt. “Comparison of alcohol consumption in European countries, and some methodological thoughts.” Unpublished manuscript. 3rd International ESS Conference, 13-15 July 2016, Lausanne. Web.

Xu, Zhen. “Translation Equivalence and the Reader's Response.” International Review of Social Sciences and Humanities 10.2 (2016): 98-109. Web. 27 May 2017.

Zauberga, Ieva. “Pragmatic aspects of the translation of slang and four-letter words.” Perspectives: Studies in Translation Theory and Practice 2.2 (1994): 137-145. Web. 27 May 2017.

Zhou, Wangyue. “Literary Translation From Perspective of Reception Theory: The Case Study of Three Versions of Na Han.” Studies in Literature and Language 7.2(2013): 19-25. Web. 27 May 2017.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.