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A Second Life of the Second Sex. Prabha Khaitan’s Hindi Rendition of Simone De Beauvoir’s Classic


· Monika Browarczyk Adam Mickiewicz University (Poznan, Poland)


07/27 | 11:40-12:00 UTC+2/CEST


Simone de Beauvoir’s Le Deuxième Sexe (1949) is a flagship feminist book and a milestone in women’s movement, its iconic status confirmed by dozens of translations. The only available Hindi rendition by Prabha Khaitan was published under an altered title, Strī upekṣitā, or literally, “The Neglecting of Women,” in 1991. The first English translation by Parshley, The Second Sex (1953), provided the source text for the Hindi rendition as Khaitan’s command of French was inadequate to use the original. Parshley’s text remained the only available English version for more than fifty years–i.e. from its publication till 2009, when the new translation came out–even though it had been widely criticised for omissions, mistranslation of philosophical terms and, hence, for the overall flattening of the multilayered French original. Though handicapped by her lack of French and working with a flowed English translation, Prabha Khaitan was undoubtedly well equipped to work with such a multidimensional and multi-referential text closely associated with the existentialist and feminist thought. She had studied Western and Indian philosophy, her PhD thesis was on existentialism of Sartre, she had written extensively on existentialist thinkers (such as Sartre and Camus), was an outspoken feminist, and a Hindi writer both of essays on women’s issues as well as creative writings. By close reading of Khaitan’s introduction to her translation of de Beauvoir’s opus magnum and of some passages of the Hindi translation, the paper proposes to examine Khaitan’s Hindi rendition from the theoretical perspective of ‘human factor’ and ‘gendered reading’ in the process of translation.