Ganga Niroshinie Suduwelikanda

The Hong Kong based Sri Lankan translator underscores the importance of taking responsibility for translations and publishers and authors
following the existing legal system

If someone asks teenage Sinhala readers what their favorite translation series is, there is a high probability that they’ll say its the translations of Laura Ingalls Wilders’ Little House on the Prairie books starting with Wana Aranaka Kuda Niwasa. Little House on the Prairie books in Sinhala are indeed invaluable contributions to the Sinhala readership that it’s a story where literature and history meet.  The credit of introducing Laura Ingalls Wilder to the Sinhala readership goes to Ganga Niroshinie Suduwelikanda, a prominent translator of English novels to Sinhala, who puts effort into translating the stories without harming original content.

Notebook-of-an-achieverGanga started her translations with a collection of children’s stories. Her first recognized translation was White Fang and since then she has translated more than 25 books.  The translation of White Fang was published by Vidarshana Publishers.

“I don’t get to see other writers or attend to literacy events. I haven’t read a new Sinhala novel in four or five years,” she said adding that Facebook is the portal where she meets the local industry and her readers.  Ganga recently started a Facebook fan page. “I get to know a lot of people who read and appreciate my work,” she said

As a child Ganga resided at various places. Her father was from Aranwela, Beliatta and her mother was from Wattala.  She has attended around 15 schools including St. Thomas Girls’ school Matale, Vihara Maha Devi Vidyalaya Badulla, St. Xavier’s School Ja Ela and St. Paul’s Girls’ School Kelaniya since she ‘spent her childhood swigging back and forth’  from her mother’s village and father’s village.

Ganga joined Sumathi Publishers as a freelance writer while she was studying for the Advanced Level examination. She translated and penned many articles including short stories, novels, and poems for newspapers including Samudura, Araliya and Rajina.
Almost as soon as Ganga started a career in writing she had to move to Hong Kong. There she works at an international primary school. Although her books are sold and appreciated highly, she said that she isn’t much in touch with the Sri Lankan literary field. “I left Sri Lanka 15 years ago.  I don’t get to see other writers or attend to literacy events. I haven’t read a new Sinhala novel in four or five years,” she said adding that Facebook is the portal where she meets the local industry and her readers.  Ganga recently started a Facebook fan page. “I get to know a lot of people who read and appreciate my work,” she said.

She believes that literature opens one’s mind to learn new things. “Benefits of literature are beyond explanation,” she said. Sri Lanka mostly gets in touch with world literature through translations.  Ganga said that a translation can convey the same idea as the original book even if the language which the translator uses is different. “The idea would be the same if the translator has been honest with the original work and translates it completely without skipping anything,” she pointed out. She added that she has always tried to convey what she felt when she read the original book.

“I like to change my style of translation depending on the original book,” she further said talking about her translations of the Girl with a Pearl Earring, Como Agua Para Chocolate and Love and Rosie. “Love, Rosie was completely written on text messages, online chats and conversations where grammar and word order wasn’t given much attention. In the translation I try to stick to this style to secure the novelty,” she added.

In her perspective, a translation is successful when the translator has accurately grasped the meaning of the original work and given it a beautiful flow in the translated language. “Using a simple language every reader can understand is also important,” she said explaining how she spends time getting to know the book before she attempts to translate it.

Once she decides to translate a book she does a comprehensive research on the book before she begins work. “Sometimes I find myself spending too much time in research. Therefore it takes a long time to complete a translation,” she iterated. She also said that she had only translated the books she had enjoyed reading.

She further said that there is responsibility behind a translation more than just translating words.  It is also about proper editing, paying copy rights to the original authors, signing agreements with proprietors and giving it a good finish. “Sadly in Sri Lanka there is always a predator translating and publishing books illegally,” she said complaining that this underrates efforts of the translator who follows the proper process. “We had to experience similar unfortunate incidents when we published The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns,” she said.

“While I was busy writing back and forth to Khaled Hosseini’s agents and trying to get the agreements sorted out, someone else translated the books and published it. This illegal translation of The Kite Runner was in the market already and it even had the same title. I wanted to change mine, but the original author advised us to go ahead with our title as there was no other way to put it to Sinhala. We are the sole legal publisher in Sri Lanka for this book,” Ganga said.

She reiterated the distress such incidents bring to the translator after all the troubles they endure.  “When I translated The Kite Runner I was in touch with a professor in Kabul University and learnt so much about Afghanistan and their kite fighting,” she further. Ganga recalled how this extensive research helps her to produce a complete translation.
She also mentioned the inadequacy in implementing copy right laws, royalty fees and proper agreements in translating and publishing a book in Sri Lanka.  “When you first start you wouldn’t know any of these. But you are excited to become a published author. So you would just go ahead. I too did this at the beginning,” she reminisced.

“But once the translator becomes aware that there is a legal system to be followed he/she would want to take that path,” said Ganga underscoring the importance of publishers and authors working together and following a proper system.

Commenting on the demand for autonomous and translated novels she said she observes that people have an equal interest for both these types of books. “I think lately there have been many good autonomous books in the industry,” she said. “However, if there is a higher demand for translated books in Sri Lanka, the reason could be the interest in world literature; readers’ love to know about the stories of other countries,” she opined.
She published her debut novel Suwanda Thotupola (Fragrant Harbour – Hong Kong) in 2007 based on her experiences in Hong Kong. “It can be called as a travelogue as well. It’s mostly nonfiction mixed with a bit of fictional characters,” she said. She mentioned that it is currently out of print although many people inquire about the book. “I received a lot of positive feedback. But at the time, it has kind of disappeared from the market,” she said.

Ganga’s latest translation is ‘Ikbithi Kandukaraya Donkara Duni’ published in May 2015. This book, the translation of ‘And the mountains echoed’ was translated into Sinhala with the permission of its original author Khaled Hosseini.

Ganga is currently working on new translations; a series of children’s stories and another autonomous novel. She also plans to launch two more translations this September. One is the third book of the Little House series called Almanzo Punchi Goviya. “It is about the childhood of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband Almanzo Wilder. The second book is the part two of Love, Rosie, which is a translation of much admired Cecelia Ahern’s work. First part of Love, Rosie was published in 2009. Sadadara Rosie is novel experience for the Sinhala audience because it’s written in an unusual way. “It’s a very inspiring story; a book that can lift your spirit. I would be very glad if the readers be open-minded and give it a go,” she said.

Suduwelikanda’s translations

  • Hima Amma
  • Wurkayange Adawiya Hewath White Fang
  • Yauwaniyakage Dinapotha
  • Wana aranaka kuda niwasa
  • Thanithalawe pihiti kuda niwasa
  • Midi oya asabada
  • Ridee wil thera
  • Seethalen seetheunu seetha samaya
  • Thanithalawe pihiti kuda nagaraya
  • Me mihirathi sonduru samaya
  • Palamu siw wasara
  • Dangamalla saha amuthu iskolaya
  • Dangamallage danga weda
  • Honda Danga Malla
  • Bobsie Niwunnu
  • Beesas saha Ramona
  • Karadarakaara Ramona
  • Edithara Ramona
  • Me okkoma Vin Dixie nisa
  • Naraka Arambaya
  • Dalmatian 101
  • Kristy 1
  • Kristy 2
  • Sadadara Rosie 1
  • Ihirunu diya
  • Luunu saha kandulu
  • Muthu karabuwa palandi yuwathiya
  • Sarungal luhu bandinna
  • Manaram hiru dahasak

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