China today released the first evern Chinese translations of the collective works of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, a rare honour to the famed poet who enjoys iconic status among generations of Chinese people.
In all 33 volumes containing 16 million words covering his poetry, essays, novels and drama sections were released ahead of Tagore’s 155th birth anniversary at the China Radio International (CRI) which broadcasts in Bengali language besides host of Indian and intentional languages as diplomats from India and Bangladesh also attended the function.
Considering his popularity, Tagore’s works have been widely translated in China mostly from English translations but this is the first time his entire works barring songs were translated into Chinese directly from Bengali.
Eighteen Bengali scholars from CRI, state-run Xinhua news agency, Chinese foreign ministry, Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and the Central Communist Party School worked on a five-year project to complete it.
“’The Complete Works of Tagore’ is of great significance for the researches concerning works of Rabindranath Tagore and south Asian culture in China,” said chief translator Dong You Chen who studied Bengali in Russia’s Leningrad University in 1960s. He was deeply influenced by Tagore after reading some of his novels in his early years.
“His humanism not simply confined to India but also China and the rest of the world appeals to Chinese greatly,” he said speaking to the media on the sidelines of the meeting.
“Tagore’s prose and his poetry are perhaps mostly regarded. His works are frequently noted for their rhythmic, optimistic and lyrical nature,” he said adding that all the translators honestly followed the great poet’s theories while translating his works.
Tagore, who had visited China thrice, has a fanatical following in the country with several devoting their lives to learn Bengali and English to translate his works.
One young translator, Cao Yanhua who studied Bengali in Bangladesh and worked as Chinese diplomat there for sometime before joining the CRI Bengali service said she liked Tagore because his works are very romantic, which is the reason why he appealed to the young Chinese.
Tagore became popular in China because he took a stand against opium use among Chinese encouraged by western powers. The only comparable foreign writer who is equally famous is Shakespeare whose 400th anniversary falls this year. Cao said her team faced many difficulties in translation because there was no Chinese to Bengali language dictionary.
“Previously his works were translated from English but this is the first time his works were directly translated from Bengali to Chinese. Problems came with many Sanskrit words,” she said. But most importantly the translators received very little money, about 60 yuan (Rs 600) for 1,000 words of translation.
“It is not the money but the passion for Tagore which drove us to work hard,” Cao said. Most of the help was from Bengali experts from Bangladesh while no assistance was sought from India, she said.