July 21, 2019
Latest News

Don Quixote finally tilts at windmills in Indonesian

By Ricardo Perez-Solero

Jakarta, Jul 10 (efe-epa).- "Di suatu tempat di La Mancha, tempat yang namanya tak kupedulikan..."

That is how one of literature's most iconic introductions sounds in Bahasa Indonesian – a language spoken by more than 265 million people in the largest Muslim-majority country on Earth.

The groundbreaking 17th-century novel "The Clever Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha," the magnum opus of Spain's most celebrated author, Miguel de Cervantes, has only now seen its first complete translation into the main language used in the world's fourth-biggest country.

This translation fills the large linguistic vacuum that had existed until now when it came to the outreach of the most oft-translated Spanish book in history.

Indonesian was the only language spoken by more than 200 million people without its own translation of the timeless classic.

The person tasked with this considerable challenge was translator and linguist Apsanti Djokosujatno. It took her almost a year-and-a-half to transform Cervantes' masterpiece into a version legible for Indonesians.

Apsanti relied on the French and English translations for support, since it was the first work that she had been asked to translate from Spanish, the 78-year-old told EFE.

She said that she had found it very difficult to translate the book, as there are several words in old Castilian that do not have a suitable equivalent in modern Indonesian, which belongs to the same linguistic family as the Malay language spoken in Malaysia and other countries in Southeast Asia.

The renowned academician has made a career out of translating French authors such as Jules Verne and Albert Camus into Indonesian, but she said she took on the task of translating Don Quixote because of the book's seminal importance in world literature.

Apsanti added that the revered tome had the ability to appeal to all kinds of readers throughout the ages.

Don Quixote has been translated completely or partially into more than 140 languages and dialects including English, Hindi, Chinese, Arabic, Bengali, French, German, Portuguese and Russian, according to Spain's Cervantes Institute, a government agency in charge of promoting Spanish culture and language around the world.

However, very few young Indonesians possess any references of the Spanish language aside from popular soccer teams and MotoGP riders. Don Quixote – which had only been partially adapted into Indonesian for a shortened version published in the 1950s – is mainly known within the archipelago's intellectual circles.

The project was launched three years ago by the Spanish Embassy in Jakarta and the Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia bookstore foundation. At one point, it was almost canceled as it faced several technical and financial difficulties.

The last-minute sponsorship of Spanish gas giant Repsol was able to resolve the problems caused by the lack of any state subsidies and the work is now marketed online with a reduced price of 250,000 rupiah (around $17).

On the occasion of the launch of the work in Indonesian, the Spanish embassy and the publishing house are set to hold a "Don Quixote Festival" on July 13-14, which will feature a Javanese puppet play based on the novel along with presentations by Spanish writer Andres Ibañez and several local artists.EFE-EPA


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