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“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Atlas Shrugged in Marathi

"When the idea of translating Atlas Shrugged occurred to me, I was overtaken by awe. The prospect of finding the words that matched Ayn Rand’s powers of expression, conveying the philosophy clearly, and bringing alive the drama in her novel in Marathi was quite challenging. Most importantly, I wanted to be true to the meaning and sense of the text." Mugdha Karnik recounts her thoughts and experiences while undertaking this task of translating Ayn Rand's masterpiece.

I read ‘Atlas Shrugged’ at a time when I had just bid goodbye to the Marxist-communist ideology and movement. Confusion raged in my young mind—about communism and my individualistic aspirations—I was tormented about being selfish and egoistic. Ayn Rand’s novels inspired a new confidence in my own identity; her ideas were weapons to fight my self-doubts about my morality.

When I started working with the University of Mumbai, mediocre academics ruled the scene, much as they do today. The majority of our vice-chancellors occupying their offices
thanks to their political connections, our professors interested more in university politics than in academics, our teachers running home as early as possible for private tuitions, our permanent staff so confidently shameless about their inefficiency, and most of our students hardly interested in gaining knowledge—ready to bribe their teachers, examiners, and clerical staff for that worthless paper of a degree certificate… I have worked in this dark shadow of evil for more than fifteen years.

My husband, Dhananjay, was working with a widely read Marathi daily newspaper. I was thus closely sharing his face-to-face encounters with the mediocrity in politics and journalism. The editor of the paper always reminded me of two of Ayn Rand’s most despicable characters—Elsworth Toohey and Simon Pritchett. He was a ghastly blend of the two. While this editor—who was a well-read librarian rather than a thinker—was accorded the status of a great intellectual by society, the creative and enterprising journalists suffered.

There was, and remains, no dearth of such examples around us.

There were more things. Religious fundamentalism, casteism playing havoc in our society, abuse of science and technology by anti-science platforms, and pseudo-scientific stands that pass off as environmentalism today, for example, the climate-change hoax getting centre-stage on a global scale…were infuriating me. I formed a habit of analysing everything with objectivist tools. Most often, I found that the cause of most of the conflicts, internal or external, was the basic premises.

Later, when I read other non-fiction works of Ayn Rand: For the New Intellectual, Capitalism- the Unknown Ideal, Philosophy- Who Needs It?, The Virtue of Selfishness, and The Return of the Primitive—I decided that some of this thought should be taken to the Marathi readers.

Although Ayn Rand’s forceful style of writing is reflected in her novels as well as her philosophical discourses, after reading these texts, I decided that it would be ideal to translate the novels first. Especially what most who admire her work consider her best—Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

When the idea of translating Atlas Shrugged occurred to me, I was overtaken by awe. The prospect of finding the words that matched Ayn Rand’s powers of expression, conveying the philosophy clearly, and bringing alive the drama in her novel in Marathi was quite challenging. Most importantly, I wanted to be true to the meaning and sense of the text. Even when the text in the source language was hard to digest for the Marathi reader’s palate, with reference to sexuality and the Indian cultural ethos, ‘bold’ Marathi words and expressions would be needed. The dilemma I faced here was whether such usage would mar the beauty of the translation according to Marathi perceptions. Overcoming this fear was a challenge in itself.

Many translation theorists have compared translation to a woman—that it could be either faithful or beautiful. Let us ignore the sexist overtones of this old quip. But yes, I have strived to make the Marathi translation both beautiful and faithful, and I have succeeded to a large extent. A theorist has said that translations can release an alternative, subversive potential of the text, turn it inside out to bring its deconstructive factor to the fore. The new language draws out possibilities beyond the original writer’s intention or awareness, possibilities that his own language would not admit but that are instilled in the new text by structures of the host language.

This has definitely happened in this translation. I am sure that the language of this translation will not only carry the force of Ayn Rand’s thought, but would also compel its Marathi readers to review some of the accepted moral principles popularised by some very great poet saints of Maharashtra, as I have deliberately used some of their literary expressions to underline the reference to context.

How many people will heft the weight of this book, I do not know. But I want this translation to reach the young, youthful Marathi readers, those who are unable to read the original, because of language constraints. I have invested my time and energy for almost five years and in return, I have enjoyed my work. In these five years, I was closer to Ayn Rand’s beautiful language and great philosophy than in any of my (numerous) previous readings. This experience itself was gratifying. It was illuminating; translating her words required me, at times, to question myself, to understand myself, and to be faithful to myself. To read her words again with a different, but definitive, purpose; to write them in the mother tongue that I love; to know that I am carrying the torch of Objectivism for my people—felt wonderful.

I look forward to translating ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Philosophy- Who Needs It?’ after I am finished with my next translation, i.e. ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins.

The book can be obtained from the publisher at the following address.

Atlas Shrugged in Marathi

Translated by Mugdha Karnik

Published by- Diamond Publications, Pune

Distributed by Diamond Book Depot,

661, Narayan Peth, Appa Balwant Chowk, Pune 411030



Price- Rs 695

ISBN 978-81-8483-350-8


  1. Congratulations on your stupendous effort.

  2. Congrats, Mugdha !;- a great achievement indeed;-this will be a milestone in Marathi / Indian literature(dominated as it is with translations of marxist/russian books);-and will hopefully create a paradigm shift in the outlook of vast sections of our populace,-who cannot or are unable to access the original (Enlish) version;-& looking forward to similar translations in other Indian languages. Regards./

  3. Wow! Awesome post. Look forward to more translations from your side

  4. Thank you so much for making this philosophy reach us. After reading the book, I felt I found what I was searching for all these years! Thank you once again :)

  5. I think this is translated version, how can the title of the book have shrugged in Marathi ? There is no word "श्रग्ग्ड" in Marathi. I would say it transliterated to Devanagari. Judging from "translation" of title I think the translator has just transliterated difficult terms. Guess! What has he done to complex terms Rand has used in the book ?