Playing with Words and Rhythms in Khālī jagah: Translating a Hindi Novel and its Texture into French

  • Nicola Pozza University of Lausanne


The novel Khālī jagah (2006) by the Hindi writer Geetanjali Shree mainly focuses on the topics of violence, loss, and quest for identity in the contemporary world. In this text – and in others too, but maybe here more than elsewhere – the author makes use of a very hybrid and idiomatic Hindi. Moreover, she repeatedly plays with iterations and alliterations, assonances and consonances, onomatopoeias and neologisms, and creates a particular syntax that might be described as dismembered, dislocated, and breathless. To these elements must also be added the inclusion of excerpts from folk songs as well as the essential role played by silences and unsaid things. If all these features are to be taken into account when translating such a narrative – as its content is tightly coupled to its form – it makes for a highly complex and challenging task.

After providing a very brief summary of Khālī jagah, I will first highlight a few rhythmic and translation related issues, before analysing in detail some excerpts from the novel, in order to explain the choices I have made for its French translation (Une place vide, Infolio, 2018) and compare some of the results with an English translation primarily focused on the content (The Empty Space, Harper Perennial, 2011).


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Author Biography

Nicola Pozza, University of Lausanne

Nicola Pozza is Associate Professor at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, where he teaches Hindi language and literature as well as the history of modern Indian literature. After completing a PhD on twentieth-century intellectual India and “The Notion of Freedom in Agyeya’s Fictions,” his research now deals with translation practices and theories. His current project is entitled “From Idealized Himalaya to Shining Delhi: Exploration, Migration and the Construction of Space in Hindi Narratives.” To date, he has translated into French several Hindi short stories, as well as the Hindi novel Khālī jagah (2006; Une place vide, 2018) by Geetanjali Shree. In connection with his academic activities, he pursues the translation of modern Indian fictions and poems (Kunwar Narain, Manohar Shyam Joshi, Agyeya, and Uday Prakash).

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