Raymond Zhu on the Tagore translation controversy in China

tagoreThere’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.

tagoreHere’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.

From an an interview with Amit Chaudhuri on Rabindranath Tagore by Prithvi Varatharajan in Asymptote

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

tagoreThe 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.”

Young_TagoreEarly 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).