Book: Gandun Dabbobi
Author: Bala A. Funtua
Publishers: University Press Ltd [1975, reprinted 1979, 1981]
The cultural implications for translation may take several forms, ranging from lexical content and syntax to ideologies and ways of life in a given culture. An accurate literary translation involves being able to match the authors original intent; it is considered an art on its own right. Without reliable book translation services, we would not have access to the classics of literature. Ideally, Bala A. Funtua is endowed with the ability to thoroughly understand all that a text says and implies; and excellent writing skills.
Gandun Dabbobi by Bala A. funtua, is a Hausa translation of a well-liked novel, Animal Farm written by Eric Blair, popularly known as George Orwell. Gandun Dabbobi is, of course a satirical allegory, very specifically of the Russian revolution in the year 1917; and the way in which people take control of society founded on principles of equality. Gandun Dabbobi is the story of betrayal of ideals, of the way leaders can hijack a longing for a better world and turn into a different world of oppression. Gandun Dabbobi opens with a secret meeting of the Animals of Gandun Nomau (Manor farm) after the owner Nomau (Mr. Jones) gets to bed drunk. Dattijo (Old Major), a white boar had a dream that he relates to all animals. He is known as the ‘Prize Middle White Boar’ and highly respected and regarded by the other Animals in the farm – Dattijo passes away three days later, fuelling the other animals’ desire to put his dream into reality. Two pigs, Maitumbi(Napoleon) and Dantulu (Snowball), take up the cause, flesh out his vision and convince the animals that it is possible. The animals of Gandun Nomau form their own philosophy of Animalism and this leads to a successful revolution. The farm is renamed Gandun Dabbobi (Animal Farm). The animals are always in wild excitement to sing the song Dattijo sang for them before his demise; the song implants in them the seed of courage to be brave. The words ran:
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken to my joyful tidings
Of the golden future time
Soon or late, the day is coming.
Tyrant Man shall be overthrown,
And the fruitful fields of England
Shall be trod by beasts alone…” Page 9.
With this early success, the animals agree to the seven commandments that explain how every animal is equal and how each animal should treat its fellow animal. At first, the rebellion is an amazing success; the farm animals are excited and quickly change how everything is done in the farm. The animals do their tasks with far more efficiency than possible before and work more collectively, the harvest is the best they have ever seen, and everyone has more food and more leisure. They come up with various ideas from special committees (kungiyoyi) to windmill (Famfo) that will mean no work for animals. But slowly the pigs take more and more control, the principles begin to change conveniently; amending the commandments, the pigs continue to hide their excesses and as time goes by, the lower animals find themselves in the same position they were under the humans.
Akawal (Boxer) and Aura (Benjamin) are the heart of the story; the author paints them as close friends, a friendship of entirely opposite personalities but with deep mutual respect. Akawal is the true believer, early on he takes as his motto ‘I will work harder’ and puts his heart and soul into making the farm a success. He also adds ‘Comrade Napoleon is always right’, setting aside his doubts and redoubling his efforts. What entices the more in this book is the way Bala A. Funtuwa vividly gives every character a linguistically correct and culturally relevant and befitting identity without affecting the original meaning. Some of these are: Karambana (Squealer), Godi (Clover), Hoge (Minimus), Kyalla (Muriel), Sangartatta (Mollie), Barde (Pinkeye), Burtu (Moses), Dafale (Bluebell), Durwa (Jessie), ‘Yarbaka (Pitcher), Mallam Nasaru (Whymper), Dano (Frederick) and Hakurau (Pilkington).
Maitumbi, the pig, decides he wants a little more power; he gets a taste for power, drives out his opponent Dantulu, and establishes a totalitarian regime as brutal and corrupt as any human society. The farm becomes a world where ‘all animals are equal but some are more equal than others’. Maitumbi seizes power over the farm and proceeds to reshape Dattijo’s ideas to his own liking, bringing the animals into a darker existence than they had ever dreamed. Maitumbi always gets the support of his spokesman, Karambana (Squealer) who is the brain behind all the corrupt practices in the farm. The commandments after amendment read:
Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy
Whatever goes upon four legs or has wings is a friend
No animal shall wear clothes
No animal shall sleep in bed [with bed sheet]
No animal shall drink alcohol [to excess]
No animal shall kill any other animal [without a cause]
All animals are equal [but some are more equal than others]
Reading Gandun Dabbobi, one would think that all the incidents take place in Northern Nigeria by the way Bala intricately weaves the points together in the Hausa language. The major themes in Gandun Dabbobi includes: the power of idealism, the struggle for power, deceit, dictatorship, abuse of power, and impossibility of peaceful association amongst others. Lies, corruption and selfishness take over in the farm, leading to the end when Maitumbi and the rest of the pigs invite Mallam Nasaru (Whimper), Dano (Frederick), Hakurau (Pilkington) and other local farmers to visit the farm. Gandun Dabbobi is a fascinating book to read.
Gusau, January, 2012
[First published in Issue No. 9 of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine, August 2012]
Read the original Review in Hausa – Sharhi : Gandun Dabbobi Na Bala A. Funtua
Jalaludeen Ibrahim Maradun, who hails from Maradun in Zamfara State, studied English at the Uthman dan Fodio University, Sokoto . He is an active member of the Zamfara State chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors and author of the book “Beyond the Setting Sun” . He is a bilingual writer [English and Hausa] and his writings have appeared in newspapers and on the internet.