On Translating Bangla Literature

Published in Words Without Borders: Dispatches, January 2013.

Apart from a brief (and instructive but failed) attempt at translating Gloria Steinem’s essay If Men Could Menstruate into Bangla, I didn’t venture into translation waters for another decade or so. There were reasons for abandoning Steinem: how was I to explain American football to a Bengali readership or Joe Namath’s iconic status without diluting the satirical bite of “Joe Namath Jock Shields” (the brand name sanitary supplies that would have been developed for ‘those light bachelor days’ if men actually menstruated)? And while my readership might know Paul Newman, how was I to explain tampons?