Department of English, Jadavpur University

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Rabindranath Tagore

International Conference: Rabindranath Tagore: Transmission, Translation and World Literature. March 21-23 2012. (CAS, Department of English in collaboration with Rabindranath Studies Centre, Jadavpur University). Co-ordinated by Supriya Chaudhuri, Ananda Lal, Samantak Das. Conference Report:

Rabindranath Tagore’s works reached the world, for the most part, in translation. Writing in a language – Bengali – which was accessible neither to the greater part of his countrymen nor to the rest of the world, and in a country that was under foreign rule, he nevertheless gained extraordinary international renown through the circulation of his writings in the major Indian and European languages, as well as in some of the languages of East Asia. This is in itself a unique phenomenon, testimony to the project of a ‘world literature’, or weltliteratur that Goethe imagined early in the 19th century, although Tagore’s own idea of a world literature (visva-sahitya) was very different. It is perhaps necessary to stress that Tagore’s renown in India as well as elsewhere depended as much on his creative works – chief among them his poetry – as on his ideas, regarding education, nationalism, and rural reconstruction, to name just three, and his practical experiment in creating a different kind of lived intellectual life in the rustic environs of Santiniketan. The transmission of Tagore, then, is dependent both on the literal translations of his writings (often by himself) and the more diffuse ways in which his ideas spread among a significant section of the intelligentsia, if not always among the populace at large, in countries spread across the world, from Japan to Argentina, across Europe and America. Tagore translated his own writings into English, co-operated with others in the task, and translated other literatures into Bengali from almost the beginning of his writing life. His English Gitanjali, which he dismissed as a ‘prose’ rendering, attracted readers from all over the world and was subsequently translated into many other languages. But he was himself distrustful of the losses suffered in translation, and urged an audience of Chinese students, late in his life, to read his work in Bengali. There is no doubt that the fortunes of Tagore in translation reflect many of the anxieties and tensions, not just of the colonial situation, but of any great writer in a non-metropolitan language who is compelled to submit to the transactions of print and the world book market today. Equally, we may be faced with a gap between idea and reality in the translation of Tagore’s ideas into practice (in education, for example). Yet translation is an absolutely necessary component of culture as we understand it: it is through processes of literary, cultural, and cross-medial translation that ideas are transmitted from one section of humanity to another, and what we call world literature and culture are constituted, before and after ‘globalization’. The International Conference on Tagore: Transmission, Translation and World Literature addressed the practice and problems of translating Tagore’s writings, the theoretical and conceptual aspects of Tagore translation, including Tagore’s own views on translation, transmission of ideas between cultures, translation of ideas into social practice, transmission of texts, translation and transmission between genres, modes and media, including theatre, film and musical modes, world literature as a concept and phenomenon; Tagore’s indebtedness to world literature, and other relevant themes related to Tagore, translation, and cross-cultural transmission.

Speakers included: Professor Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (formerly Vice-Chancellor, Vishva Bharati), Professor Partha Ghose (Platinum Jubilee Fellow, Indian National Science Academy), Professor Swapan Chakravorty (Director-General, National Library of India), Professor Sukanta Chaudhuri (Professor Emeritus, Jadavpur), Spandana Bhowmik (SRF, Jadavpur), Dr Swati Ganguly (Vishva Bharati), Jorge Diego Sanchez (University of Salamanca), Dipannita Datta (Independent Researcher), Professor Dikhshit Sinha (Vishva Bharati), Dr Bipasha Raha (Vishva Bharati) Sukalyan Chanda (Jadavpur), Abhishek Basu (Jadavpur), Professor Abhijit Sen (Vishva Bharati), Anindya Sengupta (Jadavpur), Hiran Mitra (Artist), Sujit Kumar Mandal (Jadavpur), Professor Supriya Chaudhuri (Jadavpur), Professor Subha Chakraborty Dasgupta (Jadavpur), Dr Kumkum Bhattacharya (Vishva Bharati), Professor Imtiaz Ahmed (Dhaka), Dr Ana Jelnikar (Presidency University), and Professor Ananda Lal (Jadavpur). The conference ended with a narrative and musical presentation by Madhuboni Chatterjee and Manoj Murali Nair.

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