It’s that time of the year again – we will know who wins the Nobel Prize of Literature on 13 October. Hopefully we will discover someone like Patrick Modiano and Svetlana Alexievich, who were virtual unknowns in the Anglophone West-centric literary world of ours. The works of Modiano and Alexievich only started to arrive in India after their Nobel wins; we would have been denied of their profound works which experimented with form and the way of saying, if the Nobel Prize wasn’t conferred upon them. Their works weren’t also published by the mainstream UK and USA publishers, and this says a lot about the motivation and the ability of the Anglophone world to recognize and publish world literature. One feels a certain gratitude for the Nobel Prize for being the only prize in our world that continues to identify and celebrate literature.
India hasn’t won the Nobel Prize for Literature since Tagore–it has been over 100 years since that momentous event for Asia. The reasons for that could be many: regional language literature wasn’t translated or didn’t find its way to Europe. In Calcutta, there are still passionate discussions about why certain Indian authors – who didn’t write in English – should have won the Nobel Prize, but they didn’t, because they were not promoted by the Indian literary ecosystem. The names of Jibananda Das, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay U.R. Ananthamurthy and Ashapurna Devi are always mentioned. Read more
Arunava Sinha’s ‘The Greatest Bengali Stories Ever Told’ comes with a caveat. In his introduction, he writes that the short stories in this collection have been chosen not according to literary canons or eras or any other form of “critical sieving”, but simply because these are stories that have loomed large in his life, and that he loves. Translated into English over a period of five years, the stories are ordered chronologically from Tagore’s ‘The Kabuliwala’ to Amar Mitra’s ‘Air and Water’ , and Sinha believes they act as a map, allowing a younger generation to rediscover and reconnect with a legacy of reading. We spoke about the continuance of the Bengali short story, about melancholy and being unambitious.
Excerpts from an interview:
You say you chose these stories because there’s a quality that haunts the characters, a sense of something missing. Why is this appealing to you?
I probably need to psychoanalyse myself for that but it resonates with something within me. It’s a very personal response but in some ways anybody who’s involved with writing, whether it’s your own work or translations, I think there’s always a seeking. I’m not trying to over-intellectualise it, but there’s always something out of your reach, and then there are certain aspects of my life that fit in with this whole business of looking and not finding. Read more
A story telling session of Katha Kathan was held in Mumbai on Friday evening to commemorate the birthdays of Rabindranath Tagore and Saadat Hasan Manto with a recitation of their renowned works.
The warmth of literature is truly overpowering. One could sense the excitement in the audience while they waited to enter the YB Chavan auditorium in Mumbai on Friday, but not more than the performers themselves, who had a sparkle in their eyes as they looked forward to the storytelling session for the evening.
Katha Kathan is a platform for storytelling that converts works of literature into spoken word narration. The main aim of the venture is to revive Indian language literature that is often relegated to the background.
Raymond Zhu on the Tagore translation controversy in China
There’s a fine line between imprinting creative works with unique personality and screamingfor attention. Feng Tang just crossed it, when he translated Tagore’s tranquil verse into avulgar selfie of hormone saturated innuendo.
Classical literature deserves more than one translation.
Rarely does one language have the exact equivalent for every word, phrase or concept inanother language.
So even the best translators have to choose what is most important or relevant in the originaland attempt to find the expressions in the target language deemed to overlap the most withthe original. The choices can be subjective. Read more
A Chinese poet has translated lines from Indian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s lyrical poems with vulgar sexual innuendos: TOI
Feng Tang, translated “Stray Birds” a collection of Tagore’s lyrical poems known for their simplicity and sublime beauty, the China Daily reported.
The translation that has turned into an instant ridicule, is: “The world puts off its mask of vastness to its lover. It becomes small as one song, as one kiss of the eternal,” Tagore’s original said which Feng translated to: “The wide world unzipped its crotch to its lover. Long as a tongue kiss, small as a line of a poem.”
Here’s good news for Tagore lovers. Almost the entire body of work of the poet will now be available for users of Android mobile operating system, courtesy the Society for Natural Language Technology Research.
On the poet’s 155-birth anniversary celebrated on May 9, the Society for Natural Language Technology Research (SNLTR), set up under the West Bengal government’s Information Technology Department in 2007, has inaugurated the services on an App for Android users. Read more
From an an interview with Amit Chaudhuri on Rabindranath Tagore by Prithvi Varatharajan in Asymptote
- Rabindranath Tagore was India’s most famous modern poet and is one of its greatest cultural icons. Born in 1861, Tagore was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1913, which brought him international fame.
- Tagore was very precocious and began to write early on. He produced a very interesting work by the time he was fifteen, pretending to be a poet from medieval times. And by the time he was seventeen or eighteen he was quite acknowledged within Bengal as a poet to watch, and was in fact singled out for praise by the first great Indian novelist in Bengal, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay.
- The painter William Rothenstein was actually a friend of the Tagore family and ran into Rabindranath in 1910. He was speaking to Abanindranath Tagore [Rabindranath’s nephew] when he noticed this person in the room who wasn’t saying very much, and he asked Abanindranath who this very quiet man was and found out it was Rabindranath, who had this high reputation as a poet. Tagore gave Rothenstein his translations of his own songs—translations that would comprise the Gitanjali—when he travelled to London in 1912.For whatever reason, Rothenstein was completely won over by Tagore’s poems, and introduced Tagore to people like Ezra Pound and W.B. Yeats.
- At Pound’s insistence Harriet Monroe published some of the poems in Poetry (Chicago). And there we see Tagore’s transition to international fame and celebrity.
- Tagore then received the Nobel Prize in 1913 and soon after that Pound and Yeats began to look at the poems and Tagore in a different way. Read more
The Iranian Artists Forum hosted the meeting “Indian Contemporary Literature” attended by the scholar Safdar Taqizadeh, as well as Ehsan Abbaslou, Behnaz Ali-Pour and Elham Baqeri on Thursday, June 26.
Speaking to IBNA correspondent, Elham Baqeri, research secretary of India’s Cultural Centre in Iran described the event: “The subject of the lecture by master Taqizadeh, the Iranian writer, translator and critic was “Rabindranath Tagore from the View of William Butler Yeats, the Great Poet of the West.” Read more
A hundred years ago, a slender book — the English Gitanjali of Tagore — caught the world unawares. Wearing a deceptively frail look, the book has ever since arched over temporal and spatial distances to enthral hearts and incite critical responses. It was for this English Gitanjali that Rabindranath Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in November 1913. Read more
Early in his study of the young Rabindranath Tagore, Sudhir Kakar quotes Rilke on Rodin: “It’s like holding a cup beneath a waterfall.” The waterfall is an unconsciously apposite image, given the way in which the overflowing spring is used by Tagore himself to represent an epiphanic moment in his early adulthood, when he composed the poem The Fountain Awakes (Nirjharer Swapnabhanga). Read more