Doctoral Candidate, Nikhil Pandhi, recently received the inaugural PEN Presents award for translation, by English PEN, the founding centre of PEN International, a worldwide writers’ association with 145 centres in more than 100 countries. The award included a grant to create literary translations to enhance access to titles from underrepresented languages and regions of the world, and help diversify the translated literature landscape, especially for the Anglophone readership.
Pandhi was awarded a prize for his translation, from Hindi to English, of a short story by Anita Bharti, a prominent Indian Dalit-feminist writer, poet and activist. Bharti is also a long-term ethnographic interlocutor of Pandhi, whose dissertation fieldwork, in northern India, funded by the Wenner-Gren foundation, engages with a wide-range of Dalit-feminist creatives, artists, writers and activists committed to “breaking the caste system through literature.” Translation, Pandhi argues, is key to understanding the radical world-making possibilities of anti-colonial and anti-Brahmanical modes of storytelling. Anthropology, as it embraces and enjoins the everyday valences of cultural translation with the literary, affective and ethnographic labour of storytelling, becomes vital for producing decolonial liberatory epistemologies.
The inaugural round of PEN Presents, open to literary translators from any Indian language, received numerous entries from around the world; twelve translators were selected in the shortlist and six ‘phenomenal’ literary translators eventually received the winning award. The winners will now receive editorial support, including book-contracts, and be promoted by English PEN in international publishing circuits.
Pandhi is currently also editing and translating, from Hindi to English, a collection of selected Ambedkarite Dalit-feminist love stories, entitled Love in The Time of Caste, forthcoming from Zubaan, India’s leading feminist press, in 2023.
His prize winning PEN Presents story, ‘Live Broadcast’ (a translation from the Hindi original, ‘Seedha Prasaran’) can be read here. More information on PEN Presents, and a selection of his other translations of Dalit-feminist poetry can also be found here.