GUWAHATI, Sept 7 � The significance of the Nobel Prize in Rabindranath Tagore�s intellectual life is perhaps exaggerated in the critical analyses on his literary contributions.
This was stated by noted historian and scholar Dr Sabyasachi Bhattacharya while delivering the Professor Maheswar Neog birth centenary lecture on �Transmission of culture and translation of literature: Rethinking Tagore�s experience�, organized by the Professor Maheswar Neog Memorial Trust here today.
�The significance of the Nobel Prize in Tagore�s intellectual life is perhaps exaggerated in the usually available accounts of Tagore�s literary life. Be that as it may, the consequence has been that Tagore�s long career as a creative mind has been overshadowed by the publication of a few translations of a fragment of his corpus of writings and the triumphal narrative of the Nobel Prize episode,� he said.
Bhattacharya, currently a Tagore National Fellow, Union Ministry of Culture, said that Tagore�s attempt to bring to readers in Bengali a universalist tradition spanning nations and religions and linguistic communities not only suggests a pattern �but a point that also emerges is that translating his poems in Gitanjali was a small part of a much larger corpus of translations he produced. Because of the Nobel Prize, Gitanjali is commonly viewed in isolation and its significance in Tagore�s creative life is exaggerated.�
He said that right from the beginning the critical appreciation of Tagore�s translation work was qualified by criticism of his language and this criticism grew sharper in the course of time.
�The poor quality of translation of Tagore�s poems, especially since 1914, was commented upon, among others, by Yeats himself� After the award there was a tendency in contemporary criticism to recognize the weight of the Nobel Prize, but it was jealously noted that the only British author to get that prize till then was Rudyard Kipling,� Bhattacharya said.
Bhattacharya said that Neog, an eminent Assamese scholar, was deeply interested in the translation of literature, judging by his intellectual engagement in the Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad, his tours in Europe on behalf of the Indian government to devise projects to familiarize Europe with Indian literature, and above all, his endeavour to transmit to the rest of India Assam�s literature and culture from Srimanta Sankardev onwards.
Speaking on the occasion, Governor JB Patnaik said a man like Prof Neog is �rare in any country or community.� �Neog was a poet who made important experiments in his use of metre, introducing free verse in modern Assamese poetry in the Forties of the last century. An extraordinarily sensitive man, focused and devoted, he made seminal contributions to Assam�s life and literary world that posterity will always take note of in a spirit of reverence,� Patnaik said.
Dr Nagen Saikia, former president of Asam Sahitya Sabha and president of the memorial trust, and Dr NK Choudhury, ex-VC, Gauhati University, also spoke on the occasion.