As the world, like an old whaler, is led on a destructive journey of obsession under a new Captain Ahab, Donald Trump, in search of his own mad plan, with us all on board seemingly without control, the workers’ education association, LPT, has launched a Kreol version of Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. Still up-to-date exactly 200 years after the birth of Herman Melville in 1819, Flavia Doherty-Bigara has produced an abridged and translated version. This book is a joy to read. Flavia has stripped it down to its absorbing narrative, the skeleton of the beast, thus giving us a text that generations of adolescents, as well as adults, will have access to in the mother tongue.
Ledikasyon pu Travayer held a Translation Prize last year (the association’s 6th literary context), calling for translations from any language into Kreol of classic short stories, and of the 122 entries, Moby Dick won the Pri Feminin, which the Muvman Liberasyon Fam donated in order to promote women in translation. This is the second title out of the Prize winners’ work. The previous title was the twin translation of Sleeping Beauty (adapted to the Madagascan tradition of keeping the dead for later re-examination) and the Blue-Beard, timely in the times of #MeToo.
The launch of Moby Dick in Kreol was held on Thursday 22 August, 2019 at the Documentation Centre and Library of the Association Lupus Alert in Rose-Hill on the Royal Road. So, there were three associations that jointly launched the book, in the presence of members of all three: Lupus Alert, MLF and LPT. Lupus Alert had also put together a mini-exhibition of books by Herman Melville and even a soft-toy Moby Dick.
Dalilah Kalla, Lupus Alert spokeswoman, said that their Documentation Centre and Library had started with just one book, a Q and A book on the illness for members. Over time, it gathered together scientific and medical books for members on this illness and other auto-immune illnesses. And soon, it became a general Library with books, fiction and non-fiction, on all manner of topics, and for children, adolescents and adults.
Lindsey Collen for the LPT said that when three associations cooperate together this way, it can have a multiplier effect – strengthening all the organizations. She also gave a brief history of LPT as printer and publisher, from the very first book that members wrote page by page by hand for adult literary students – in 200 copies! Now that children, 3,000 or so a year, have reached Grade VII, they are thirsty for reading matter, and this series from the contest is designed to help fill the gap fast.
Ragini Kistnasamy for the Muvman Liberasyon Fam spoke on the importance of women writing and translating – and having the confidence to launch on projects as bold as Moby Dick. She also said that the MLF has members who write – poetry and novels – as well as having been part of a freedom of expression movement at the time of the banning of one of Lindsey’s novels.
Marjorie Barbe-Munien, as one of the four members of the LPT’s jury for the Translation Prize said how translation was not just opening up an existing bridge between two languages, but it involved building the bridge. She gave examples from Flavia’s work of how she had approached this massive task, as well as the task of reducing a huge volume to a small one. She congratulated LPT for choosing to use the official orthography for this series of publications. She said how there is a shortage of translations of women writers’ works, and how this also needs to be addressed.
The prize-winner, Flavia, said that she had enjoyed writing the book, and that the biggest challenge was slimming it down. Had she heard Marjorie explaining the difficulties of her task before she began, she said wittily, she would never have embarked upon the work.
Two women with experience in drama, Yianna and Vinesha, then produced fine theatrical readings from Flavia’s text. This gave everyone a taste of what was to come when they would read the book.
Flavia then sat and autographed copies – people were buying them by the pair or even 5 or 10 because they are only Rs50 and can be used, placed in an envelope, as a gorgeous “kart swe” in the form of a booklet – while others enjoyed a chat over a cup of tea, coffee and juice prepared by Lupus Alert. People present for the launch so enjoyed it, they seemed reluctant for the event to draw to a close.
The book is available at the LPT and at Le Cygne at Rs50 a copy. Don’t miss it. Buy one for children in your neighbourhood, and one for yourself!