Rabindranath Tagore for modern readers

Mar 24, 2014, 09:36 IST | Soma Das

Three questions with translator Arunava Sinha

Q. What is the main idea behind the book, Rabindranath Tagore For The 21st Century Reader? Can you describe the process of selection?
A. The idea is to present a selection of Tagore’s works to the contemporary reader to bring out the modernity in his work. The translations keep in mind the sensibilities and expectations of the modern reader, in terms of both content and form. Making a selection from Tagore’s vast oeuvre is always heartbreaking. But the objective was not to present extracts but self-contained works. Translating Tagore is always a challenge because of his immense facility with language and the depth of his material. It is also immensely satisfying.

Q. Why is Tagore and his work relevant in today’s times? What are the highlights of the book?
A. Tagore is relevant because he wrote about the human condition, about the politics of nationalism and freedom, about ethics and choices; also, because his craft is timeless.
The book comprises Tagore’s seminal novel, Home and the World; his short masterpiece, The Monk-King; several of his finest short stories, including The Laboratory, which is the last story he wrote; a selection of his modern poems, a play, and a few lyrics. It is a fairly unique compendium in terms of its material. This book presents complete novels and stories, not extracts. There is drama, poetry and fiction all together, and uses a modern translation idiom.

Rabindranath Tagore. Pic/AFP

Q. Could you tell your readers a bit about your literary background?
A. I translate classic, modern and contemporary Bengali fiction into English. Over 25 of my translations have been published so far. Two of my translations have won the Crossword Translation award: Sankar’s Chowringhee (2007) and Anita Agnihotri’s 17 (2012), while Buddhadeva Bose’s When The Time is Right won the Muse India translation award (2012).

Rabindranath Tagore For The 21st Century Reader, Translated by Arunava Sinha, Aleph, Rs 595

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