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Tagore misunderstood due to poor translations: Swedish scholar

Even the Nobel Committee in 1913 had observed that the actual significance of Tagore’s works can be understood in a limited way.

Written by Press Trust Of India | Kolkata | Published: October 29, 2013 4:40:40 am

Due to poor translation of his masterpieces,the literary creations of Rabindranath Tagore have been “misinterpreted” by people in Sweden where he was honoured with the Nobel prize,experts say.

“Even his most famous work Gitanjali,for which he won the Nobel,is practically unreadable in Swedish. It has neither the rhythm nor the brilliance,which is reflected in his original Bangla writing,” Swedish Tagore scholar Olavi Hemmila said.

In Kolkata to participate in the celebration of 100 years of Tagore winning the prestigious award,he said all the Swedish translations of his works are poor in quality as “the translators forgot the Indian backdrop in his works and saw it with a particular bias.”

Ambassador of Sweden in India Harald Sandberg said even the bard himself was worried about the quality of the translations. “Its a challenge for any one to keep the translated poetry deeply original,” he said.

Even the Nobel Committee in 1913 had observed that the actual significance of Tagore’s works can be understood in a limited way because of the unavailability of his translated works.

Citing an example,Hemmila said in West Bengal people celebrate the month of October as the autumn bids farewell to the humid summer. “But in Sweden people get worried with the onset of autumn as the winters there are very cold. Now when Tagore writes of celebrations during October,the translators could not relate to it leading to faulty translations,” he reasoned.

Associated with the Swedish South Asian Studies Network of Lund University,he has done extensive research on Tagore and wrote a book on the bard’s visits to Sweden in 1921 and 1926.

Hemmila links the gradual decline in popularity of ‘Gurudev’ in the West to the poor translations.

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