08 October 2010

Poetry and Translation

Poetry is what is lost in translation (Robert Frost)

Poetry is what is gained in translation (Joseph Brodsky)

It all depends on your frame of reference, how you want to look at it. As you change your language, it is akin to change your eye lens, and the red appears in a slightly different hue, your old view is lost, your new view is gained, have your pick. It all depends on the context (that includes the quality of translation).

But what is more important is that the urge to translate is a true urge, and I am trying to fathom why does this urge exist? To get a complete picture, you need to see the object from different perspectives, and perhaps translation provides that slightly different perspective. You may like it, you may not, but the urge to view it differently is real. There may be other reasons that manifest into this urge to translate, but for me this is the foremost, and so far the only, reason.

Hence I have decided to translate Tagore's songs (Rabindrasangeet) into English. Well, as I claim in my disclaimer, it is not really a translation, but more of retelling.
These songs are among the most basic ingredients that constitute my being, having grown up with these, and will die with these as my last companions, like the dog who accompanied Yudhishthir in his final journey.

As it very often happens in projects that involve slightly crazy ideas, I am not alone. Pratik Majumdar is my accomplice here. and lets see how long this translation bug stays with us!!

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