The first Sanskrit translation of the seminal work of Spanish literature was unveiled by Luis García Montero, during his recent visit to India.
Miguel de Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote’ is widely regarded as the first modern novel. The first Sanskrit translation of the seminal work of Spanish literature was unveiled by Luis García Montero, Director General of Instituto Cervantes, during his recent visit to India. “Cervantes’ book is a work of fiction and its goes against the Mediaeval Age with its superstitions, fantasies, etc. In fact, Cervantes turned to fiction because he wanted to give freedom to human beings so that they can be liberated,” explained Montero. Minni Sawhney, Professor Hispanic Studies, University of Delhi, served as his translator.
There is much more to Don Quixote than merely being a book and Cervantes is perhaps the most important figure in the history of Spanish literature. The book discusses idealism versus materialism, life and death. “Cervantes invents a character called Don Quixote and gives him complete freedom. Using this freedom, he becomes a Knight of the Middle Ages. Cervantes basically wanted to show that if a person has personal dignity then even his errors are respected. The whole book becomes a defense of freedom, liberty, and respect for the human being. The figure of Don Quixote is a universal one. And we are used to the fact that scholars over the ages have interpreted this work of literature according to the times they have lived in,” Montero further explained.
The present book contains a modern Sanskrit translation of eight chapters from the Part I of ‘Don Quixote.’ The translation has been done by two Kashmiri Pandits, Jagaddhar Zadoo and Nityanand Shastri. Shastri’s grandson Surindar Nath Pandita and Dr. Karan Singh were also present at the book launch event. Interestingly, the Sanskrit translation of ‘Don Quixote’ is not the first translation of Cervantes’ novel into an Indian language. There already exists a complete translation in Hindi by Vibha Maurya who directly translated from Spanish to Hindi. There also exists a translation of ‘Don Quixote’ in Bengali. As for the Sanskrit translation, Zadoo and Shastri relied on the English version of the text which traces back to an American collector in 1937.
Montero, who is also a noted poet and author, is one of the founding members of the Poetry of Experience movement. He is a professor of Spanish Literature at the University of Granada. His most famous works include ‘Someone Speaks Your Name,’ ‘Don’t Tell Me Your Life,’ and ‘Completely Friday,’ among others. As part of the visit, Montero also made a major announcement as part of Instituto Cervantes’ Indian expansion. “In 2023, we will open an extension in Bangalore. Its technological, educational, economic and demographic potential makes it the ideal city. Our center in Bangalore will have 8 classrooms and an exhibition space,” revealed Montero.
Over the last few years, Spanish has also become one of the most studied foreign languages amongst the Indian students. It is a result of several factors at play. “Spanish has become one of the favorite languages for Indian students. For various reasons: the greater economic and cultural openness of India, the greater relevance of Latin America, the growing importance of Spanish in India, the positive image of Spain as a European, democratic and developed country, and as an attractive tourist destination, and the music, movies and TV series in Spanish,” explained Montero.
Instituto Cervantes was founded in 1991 by the Government of Spain for promoting Spanish Language teaching and making the world more aware of Hispanic culture. In India, the institute was set up in 2009. “Ever since the inauguration of the Instituto Cervantes in New Delhi in 2009, there has been a growing demand for Spanish courses. The growing presence of Spanish in Indian private schools is clear, and now also in secondary schools, and according to some studies, it is beginning to displace French and German,” rejoiced Montero.
During the visit, Montero also met with the Indian Hispanic community and expressed his gratitude towards them for creating a significant school of thought and influence to spread the legacy of Spanish language, culture and literature. At part of the cultural exchange programme hosted by the Sahitya Akademi, Montero also recited some of his poems. “The cultural exchange holds a very important place and the Hispanic community here in India has been playing a wonderful role in the growth of Spanish culture. It is equally important that as part of this cultural exchange we also explore the possibilities for the advancement of literature from India in Spain,” summed up Montero.