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‘Asterix’ French Bestseller Comics, Now Available For Hindi Readers

"We talk of warfare, historical hostilities, cultural chauvinism. The comic has strategies, cultural superiority and talking down to the Germanic tribes or Romans. This kind of a comic has a universal resonance.

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"There are so many cultural references. You have to find equivalent Hindi words, terminology, proverbs, jokes, songs. There is Latin used as well," Gupta, who also translated 'The Adventures of Tintin', said. Pixabay

By: Siddhi Jain

Launched in 1959, the French comic classic ‘Asterix’ boasts having sold an unmatched 370 million copies in more than 100 languages. After capturing the global comics market, the series is now available for Hindi readers – after five years of painstaking translation.

The Hindi translation of the first four albums of the ‘Asterix’ series was released here on Thursday by French Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler, who called the comics’ total of 33 albums “a monument of French pop culture” and “opportunity to learn not French, but about the French (people).”

The series follows the adventures of a group of Gallic villagers as they resist Roman occupation in 50 BCE. It was originally written by Rene Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo.

Published by Om Books International, the “albums”, as they are called, were co-translated by Dipa Chaudhuri and Puneet Gupta beginning from 2014. Sharing that translating each album took at least 6-8 months, the task was “not merely a word-to-word translation”.

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Besides finding the right word, we had to find the right length, because there were speech bubbles.  Pixaba

“There are so many cultural references. You have to find equivalent Hindi words, terminology, proverbs, jokes, songs. There is Latin used as well,” Gupta, who also translated ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, said.

Explained his French-speaking co-translator Chaudhuri: “There was a huge translator’s block when we started. It wasn’t just any translation. These were graphic novels and the graphic form imposes a lot of restrictions as to how you can translate.

“Besides finding the right word, we had to find the right length, because there were speech bubbles. The Hindi script practically is much longer than the French. There are matras on the top, side and bottom, whereas in French they are only on top. We couldn’t be waffling with the translation,” Chaudhuri added.

What the translators also has to be mindful of is that each language has its own aural space and one size does not fit all.

“While you’d hit a person with a ‘Paff’ in French, it’ll be ‘Bang’ in English and ‘Thak’ in Hindi,” Gupta expalined, adding that they identified a 100 sounds in four of the 33 albums.

The French equivalent of the India’s iconic ‘Chacha Chaudhary’ comics or ‘Amar Chitra Katha’, ‘Asterix’ is a journey into French mindsets and is widely translated and adapted into animated films, video games, live action films, and even theme parks.

The translators shared an interesting anecdote while preparing the Hindi comic.

“They’ve used the (military) terms decurion and centurion. We couldn’t have used ‘major’ or ‘colonel’. So we had to come up with ‘dashpati’ and ‘shatpati’ for commanders of 10 and 100 soldiers,” Gupta said.

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The series follows the adventures of a group of Gallic villagers as they resist Roman occupation in 50 BCE. It was originally written by Rene Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo. Pixabay

“We called up people in the armed forces and asked them how they’d say this.”

Asked if they came across similarities between the Indo-French cultures, Chaudhari said that while there are culturally distinct experiences, human experiences remain the same.

“We talk of warfare, historical hostilities, cultural chauvinism. The comic has strategies, cultural superiority and talking down to the Germanic tribes or Romans. This kind of a comic has a universal resonance.

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Added Gupta: “Human emotions of fear, hatred, faith, satire and greed transcend time and culture. All these emotions are depicted here and one can correlate.”

The translation rights were acquired by publisher Ajay Mago from the French Hachette Livre after over 5 years of negotiations.

The first four albums are priced at Rs 295 and are available online at Amazon and Flipkart, as also offline. (IANS)

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Imposition of 10% Custom Duty on Book Import Impact Nepal’s Booksellers, Students

Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. "Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports"

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With the customs duty and the added charges, it is going to be difficult to sell imported books to academic institutions, libraries and students. Wikimedia Commons

Even as Indian publishers are grappling with a budget proposal of 5 per cent customs duty on imported books, in close neighbour Nepal, a 10 per cent duty on books has left publishers and booksellers reeling, with students hit badly as Kathmandu imports over 80 per cent of its books from India.

A few days after the Nepal government on May 29 announced a 10 per cent duty on imported books, publishers stopped picking up books at the Nepal customs point in protest and have demanded roll back of the move. With no text books coming in to Nepal, the student community has been affected the most, say publishers.

“Around 80-90 per cent of books in Nepal are imported, and most of it from India. Now the students, including those in Classes 10 and 11, are not getting text books on time. The National Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Association of Nepal (NBPAN) has decided not to import any books in protest. We import 90-95 per cent of academic and text books from India,” a noted book seller in Kathmandu told IANS on phone, declining to be named.

According to Madhab Maharjan, Advisor NBPAN and owner of Mandala Book Point in Kathmandu, the 10 per cent customs duty will attract other taxes, like the cost, insurance and freight tax and other charges, further pushing up the price of imported books.

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According to Maharjan if India revokes the 5% duty on imported books the move “may help to revoke 10 per cent duty in Nepal too”. Wikimedia Commons

“Books all over the world are sold at the printed price. With the customs duty and the added charges, it is going to be difficult to sell imported books to academic institutions, libraries and students,” Maharjan told IANS over phone from Kathmandu.

He said they have requested the KP Sharma Oli government to remove the tax. “We have a long tradition of importing books from India. Religious books were imported from Benaras in the 20th century. Now the import of books is restricted to New Delhi,” said Maharjan, adding that scholars, academics and experts are raising their voices in protest against the move through the print and social media.

The 10 per cent tax will hamper the free flow of books and also affect the reading habit of students, says Maharjan. According to him, a Nepali journalist in an article in a local daily asked Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada, who is a PhD in economics, whether it was a theory of economics to impose the customs duty on books when the need was to improve the reading habits and culture of the people.

The reason for stopping the books at the customs point was because “as soon as we import we will have to increase the price, and secondly the old stocks have to be sold at the old price”.

“Thus there will be two prices of the book in one book store. This will create misunderstanding with students, readers, scholars, researchers and academics at large with whom we have to deal with everyday,” Maharjan said.

nepal, duty on books
Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. “Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports. Wikimedia Commons

He added: “We do not want any one taking undue advantage of the situation, including politically motivating the students. Thus we have opted for this move not to import books till we come to a final decision.” According to him, the onset of the digital era has hit book sellers and publishers. “There are not many book shops left, and with moves like this book sellers may not survive for long.”

Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. “Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports. The earlier system was better to protect the local industry,” Maharjan said.

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The number of students pursuing higher education in Nepal under Management, Humanities, Science and Education stands at around 400,000, and they would be directly hit by the duty on books imported from India. According to Maharjan if India revokes the 5% duty on imported books the move “may help to revoke 10 per cent duty in Nepal too”.

K.P.R. Nair, Managing Director Konark Publishers in Delhi, said Indian publishers are aware of the situation in Nepal and are trying to help. “They have asked for our help, and we are going to help them,” Nair, a veteran in the publishing industry, told IANS. (IANS)