[INDOLOGY] Brackets in modern sanskrit translations

rrocher rrocher at sas.upenn.edu
Wed Jun 6 12:54:00 UTC 2018

Using brackets is not that outlandish.  Journalists use them all the 
time when publishing transcripts of oral interviews to maintain fidelity 
to the oral text while elucidating its context. They never struck me as 

Rosane Rocher

On 6/5/18 4:48 PM, Birgit Kellner via INDOLOGY wrote:
> I find the positive reasons adduced by Alex also convincing. I am 
> wondering sometimes whether instead of the "translation without 
> brackets" approach it might not be better to begin devising a new 
> genre, one that does not announce itself as "translation", but more of 
> a paraphrase or interpretive rendering which somehow makes transparent 
> (1) that someone renders a Sanskrit text in another language (English 
> or German or ...) and thus follows the logic / narrative and 
> terminology of the text and (2) that interpretative work has gone into 
> this rendering that makes it expressing one among several perhaps 
> equally possible interpretations. Perhaps the problem is not one of 
> how to translate, but that translation is overcharged with too many 
> different and divergent functions, and expectations.
> I don't find Dominik's argument to the effect that using brackets in a 
> translation is premised on the assumption that the Sanskrit text is 
> incoherent particularly convincing. Authors of texts make assumptions 
> about what their audience knows, and expect them to fill in gaps. We 
> are at a historical distance from these authors, and which gaps to 
> fill, and how, is interpretative work we have to do, and (now going 
> back to Alex' points about intellectual honesty) it may be advisable 
> to signal where more of this work has been required, for instance, by 
> brackets. This isn't a question of incoherence, it is perhaps a 
> question of recognizing a legitimate multiplicity of different 
> renderings.
> Best regards, Birgit Kellner
> Am 2018-06-05 um 21:19 schrieb Johannes Bronkhorst via INDOLOGY:
>> I tend to agree with Alex. Much depends on what readers the 
>> translation is for. Since even professional Sanskritists may use 
>> translations to inform themselves about texts that are not the focus 
>> of their research, these texts better not misinform their readers.
>> A concrete example may clarify this. Cowell and Gough’s translation 
>> of the /Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha/ ends with the words:
>> “The system of Śaṅkara, which comes next in succession, and which is 
>> the crest-gem of all systems, has been explained by us elsewhere; it 
>> is therefore left untouched here.”
>> Editions of the /Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha/ that were made after this 
>> translation added a chapter on the “system of Śaṅkara” found in some 
>> manuscripts. Subsequently, and perhaps partly because of this 
>> translation, most scholars accepted that this final chapter had been 
>> composed by the same author.
>> However, the Sanskrit translated by Cowell and Gough has nothing 
>> corresponding to /by us/. It reads: /itaḥ paraṃ 
>> sarvadarśanaśiromaṇibhūtaṃ śāṃkaradarśanam anyatra nirūpitam /(or: 
>> /likhitam/) /ity atropekṣitaṃ/. And the question as to the authorship 
>> of this chapter remains open. Cowell and Gough might have done their 
>> readers, and scholarship, a favour by putting [by us] in brackets.
>> Johannes Bronkhorst
>>> On 5 Jun 2018, at 20:16, Alex Watson via INDOLOGY 
>>> <indology at list.indology.info <mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> 
>>> wrote:
>>> I found Dominik's list of reasons for using brackets incomplete / 
>>> one-sided.
>>> I would include at least the two following positive reasons.
>>> 1. While brackets may disrupt the flow for readers who are not also 
>>> looking at the Sanskrit, they are helpful for those who are 
>>> comparing your translation with the Sanskrit.  (Since translations 
>>> of most Sanskrit philosophical texts, especially the more technical 
>>> ones, are extremely difficult to understand without simultaneously 
>>> looking at the Sanskrit, I find the use of brackets in the 
>>> translation of philosophical texts more desirable than undesirable.)
>>> 2. Intellectual honesty.  Use of brackets signals what follows 
>>> straightforwardly from the Sanskrit, and what is the result of 
>>> addition or interpretation on your part – which English etc. words 
>>> correspond to Sanskrit words, and what you have chosen to add in to 
>>> complete the sense, to disambiguate, or to make explicit to the 
>>> reader what would have remained obscure if you had just stuck to 
>>> rendering the Sanskrit words.
>>> Best
>>> Alex
>>> --
>>> Alex Watson
>>> Professor of Indian Philosophy
>>> Head of Philosophy Department
>>> Ashoka University
>>> _https://ashokauniversity.academia.edu/AlexWatson_
>>> <http://www.aas-in-asia2018.com/>
>>>     ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>>     From: Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com
>>>     <mailto:wujastyk at gmail.com>>
>>>     To: Harry Spier <hspier.muktabodha at gmail.com
>>>     <mailto:hspier.muktabodha at gmail.com>>
>>>     Cc: Indology <indology at list.indology.info
>>>     <mailto:indology at list.indology.info>>
>>>     Bcc:
>>>     Date: Sun, 3 Jun 2018 20:23:19 -0600
>>>     Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Brackets in modern sanskrit translations
>>>     Your question presses a big red button for me :-)  My thoughts
>>>     are here
>>>     <https://cikitsa.blogspot.com/2016/04/on-use-of-parentheses-in-translation.html>.
>>>     --
>>>     Professor Dominik Wujastyk
>>>     <http://ualberta.academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>
>>>     ​,​
>>>     Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity
>>>     ​,​
>>>     Department of History and Classics
>>>     <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
>>>     ​,​
>>>     University of Alberta, Canada
>>>     ​.​
>>>     South Asia at the U of A:
>>>     ​sas.ualberta.ca​ <http://sas.ualberta.ca/>
>>>     ​​
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> -- 
> ----
> Prof. Dr. Birgit Kellner
> Director
> Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
> Austrian Academy of Sciences
> Hollandstrasse 11-13/2
> A-1020 Vienna
> Austria
> Phone: +43-(0)1-51581-6420
> Fax: +43-(0)1-51581-6410
> http://ikga.oeaw.ac.at
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