On October 25, Swedish scholar Olavi Hemmila from Dalarna University, commented on his belief that Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s work should be further and better translated, especially as it has already been 100 years since the Nobel Prize was awarded to his collection of poetries Gitanjali (Song Offerings in English). Hemmila added that there is still a lot to learn from the Indian author, who was a polymath from the region of Bengal with a great influence on the literature and music of his motherland.
Poor Translations after 100 Years
The year 2013 is the 100th year after the Nobel Prize was awarded, yet there are still few translations of his extensive work and, according to Hemmila, the translated versions are inaccurate and lack the rhythm and the brilliance of the originals. He added that the translations have been tainted with the misinterpretations and biases of those in charge of the task, who forgot about the Indian context and situation. In 1913, the Nobel Committee itself recognised that they were missing various shades of meaning as a consequence of the linguistic barrier.
A Call for a Tagore Renaissance
Hemmila stated that the problems with the translation of Gitanjali are such that the Swedish audience has often completely misinterpreted the piece. According to the ambassador of Sweden in India, Harald Sandberg, another difficulty lies on the fact that the texts are pieces of poetry, which are always a challenge when facing translation. On his part, Hemmila defends his position calling for a Tagore renaissance and urging the younger generations to discover the author and renew their interests in the foreign icon.
Celebrations in India
The Swedish embassy in India has organised several events as a consequence of the Nobel’s 100th anniversary, including the public release of the original text of the 1913 Nobel nomination, which had never been displayed in India. Ambassador Sandberg celebrated the relationship between the two countries, which is further supported by the creation of a Nobel Memorial Wall located at Esplanade Metro Station in Kolkata. The wall displays portraits of the seven Indian Nobel Laureates, together with information about their achievements and contributions in English, Hindi and Bengali.