January 2019 Issue

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Translation Studies emerged as an academic discipline in the Western world in the late 1970s and the 1980s. In   Translation Studies (1980) Susan Bassnett, discussed and summed up its basic issues as an emerging discipline. Though not historically connected with the discipline, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)  perhaps began , for the first time, the discussion / or study of translation in India way back in 1913 touching upon  its  central issues and assumptions at a time when the discipline was yet to make its appearance in the West. This paper attempts to show how Tagore addresses its main issues and problems well ahead of its appearance in the West.

Key Words: Translation studies, Academic discipline, study of translation , central issues etc


Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the first Nobel Prize winner from Asia, is known to the West for Gitanjali: Song-Offerings (1912), an anthology of assorted poems translated by the poet himself. But what is not known to the West is that he also began, for the first time, the discussion of the myriad aspects of translation after the publication and worldwide popularity of Gitanjali (1912). It needs also to be mentioned here that Gitanjali (1912) was regarded as ‘a miracle of translation’ and that it fetched Tagore the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 making him overnight the literary ‘superstar’ of the time.  But when he began to discuss his own translations, there was no such discipline either in the East or in the West known as Translation Studies. Nobody could even dream of such a separate discipline at that point of time simply because translation was still considered a ‘secondary’ activity traditionally known as the foreign language-learning method. Hence the question of studying translation or of discussing it was not considered worthwhile either in India or elsewhere before the publication of Gitanjali (1912). Tagore is perhaps the first writer in Indian literature to have begun the study (read ‘discussion’) of (his) translation in the second decades of the twentieth century in response to the queries and / or requests of his friends, acquaintances and admirers about the different aspects of his translations. But while discussing his own translations, he made some insightful comments on translations from his first-hand translating experience ----comments that seem to have anticipated some of the basic issues of Translation Studies. Did Tagore then have in his view a discipline that was yet to take a concrete shape? Were not many of his remarks and statements on translation the manifestation of a discipline (to be) that he seemed to have envisaged in his translation reflections? Though we have no definite answers to these speculative questions, the fact remains that he initiated the study [read ‘discussion’] of translation in India at a time when Translation Studies was yet to make its appearance in the West. But unlike J. S. Holmes or Andre Lefevere Tagore did not write any treatise or ‘manifesto’ explaining its name and nature nor did he coin any term to describe the exercise that he began for the first time in India.



Though translation as an interlingual communication has existed among mankind from time immemorial, its study as an academic subject began only in the second half of the twentieth century. According to Geremy Munday, “…although the practice of translating is long established, the study of the field developed into anacademic discipline only in the second half of the twentieth century” (emphasis added) (Munday 8). Lawrence Venuti  referred to the last forty years of the twentieth century as an important period in the history of translation when “translation studies emerged as a new academic field, at once international and interdisciplinary” (Venuti 1). Riccardi also expresses a similar view, “Since the mid-twentieth century, together with the greater need for and diffusion of translations at all levels of economic, cultural and social life, translations and their study have been the object of uninterruptedscholarly investigation”(emphasis added) (Riccardi1). Consequently, the second half of the twentieth century saw a sudden increase in scholarly investigation into translation and translating that gradually paved the way for the emergence of ‘translation studies’. In his seminal essay ‘The name and nature of translation studies’ (1972) Holmes describes the background situation that gradually led to the ever-increasing interest in translation over time: “After centuries of incidental and desultory attention from a scattering of authors, philologians, and literary scholars, …the subject of translation has enjoyed a marked and constant increase in interest on the part of scholars in recentyears, with the Second World War as a kind of turning point” (emphasis added) (Toury11). Since the mid-1940s and the early 1950s, translation, as Holmes suggests, has transformed from the traditional language-learning exercise into a scholarly academic pursuit and emerged as an independent academic discipline in the 1980s. But still translation scholars and critics were indecisive to characterize the new discipline. Having analyzed the ‘diverse terms’ used in writings on translations and translating Holmes finally came to conclusion in 1972 that the phrase ‘translation studies’ should be accepted as ‘the most appropriate of all those available in English’ to describe the nascent discipline (Ibid 14). In 1978 Andre Lefevere also suggested that the name ‘Translation Studies’ ought to be adopted for the new discipline dealing with, to quote Holmes, ‘the complex of problems clustered around the phenomenon of translating and translations’ (Toury 10). Taking the cue from Holmes and Lefevere, Bassnett  went on to characterize the new discipline as ‘Translation Studies’ in her epoch-making book Translation Studies (1980) and it has since been regarded as something of an ‘introductory text’ / or a manifesto, heralding ‘the emergence of translation studies as a separate discipline’ (Venuti 215). When all these developments in the field of translation were taking place in the Western world in the run-up to the emergence of Translation Studies as an independent discipline, Tagore had already left the world scene. Considered, therefore, from a historical point of view, he did not have anything to do with Translation Studies that made its appearance in the West in the 1980s, almost four decades after his death in 1941. But so far as the study of translation is concerned, Tagore’s role is that of a pioneer. It was he who demonstrated from 1913 onwards that translation is a worth-studying ‘thing’ rather than a foreign language learning exercise, a creative process rather than a mechanical practice.


But the scholars of the Eurocentric Translation Studies did not have any scope of knowing the maiden attempt made by Tagore in beginning the study / discussion of translation in India in its rudimentary form that gradually took the shape of a new discipline in the West towards the closing decades of the twentieth century. This ‘discipline’, popularly known to-day as Translation Studies, emerged in the 1980s and established itself as an independent discipline in the 1990s. With its advent as a separate discipline the outlook of the Western scholars and critics took a liberal turn and they started viewing Translation Studies from a broad global perspective giving up their earlier narrow Eurocentric bias. In the Preface to the revised edition of Translation Studies (1991) Ms. Bassnett gave the first ever recognition to the proliferation of non-Eurocentric translation traditions across the world, “…just as literary study has changed its nature and methodology since its development outside Europe, so Translation Studies has begun to lose its overly European focus. Translation Studies has developed rapidly in India, in the Chinese and Arabic speaking worlds, in Latin America and in Africa. Just as literary studies has sought to shake off its Eurocentric inheritance, so Translation Studies is branching out in new way ….” (Bassnett xiv). But when she attempted to discuss the ‘central issues’ of translation studies she seemed to have no idea about the translation traditions existing outside Europe. These non-European traditions of translation deserve a separate ‘space’ in the history of translation studies. Mona Baker and Gabriela Saldanha have rightly devoted almost half of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies (1998) to the discussion of its History and Traditions across the globe. Even after 156th years of his birth Tagore has not been given the due recognition that he deserves for his contribution to translation studies. It is time now for the translation scholars to recognize Tagore’s  pioneering efforts toward translation study in order to form a correct idea of the genealogy of translation studies. 


Before we proceed to discuss Tagore’s study of translation, we are required to know the circumstances behind the genesis of his self-translation as well as the study of his self-translation by him. Firstly, despite being a creative writer, he had to translate his own poems so that he could reach out to his foreign friends and acquaintances in English translation. Secondly, while discussing his self-translation in response to the queries and / or request of his friends and admirers he seems to have unconsciously laid down the foundation of what is known today as Translation Studies in India where the tradition of theorizing about translation did not flourish as it did in the West (Mukherjee 36). What is most intriguing is the fact that he did not have in his mind any such agenda when he was engaged in translating his Gitanjali poems. Unlike most of the translators of the past, he did not leave behind any discourse on translation excepting  many a pronouncement he had made from time to time on different aspects of translation. Unlike the traditional translation thinkers Tagore’s speculations on translations were not concerned with the question of how to translate and the tone he adopted was descriptive rather than prescriptive. It was because of his descriptive approach to translation that he deserves a place in the vanguard of modern translation thinkers.  Tagore’s reflections on translations are found in  A Tagore Reader ed. Amiya Chakravarty (the editor reproduces some of Tagore’s letters containing his translation thoughts), Macmillan Co. 1961, Imperfect Encounter: Letters of William Rothenstein and Rabindranath Tagore 1911—1941 ed. Mary Lago,( Cambridge University Press, 1972), Letters to A Friend 91913-1922, The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore, Vol.III:A Miscellany ed.Sisir Kumar Das (Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.1966, rpt.2006), A Difficult Friendship ---Letters of Edward Thompson and Rabindranath Tagore 1913—1940 ed. Uma DasGupta (Oxford University Press,2003) and Rabindranath Tagore, my life in my words. ed.Uma DasGupta (New Delhi: Penguin / Viking.2006).

No attempt has yet been made to gather together Tagore’s thoughts on translation and translating in book form. Shyamal Sarkar made the maiden attempt of making available some of his translation thoughts in his pioneering essay “Tagore on Translation” which appeared in the May-October (1977) issue of The Visva-Bharati Quarterly. But the bulk of his translation thoughts lies scattered in his nineteen volumes of Bengali letters so far published by Visva-Bharati. Besides, his interviews given to the foreign press at different points of time and his personal conversations with friends, acquaintances and foreign dignitaries on the issue of translation are to be taken into account for this purpose.  This paper attempts to revisit some of the basic issues of translation and translating as contemplated by Tagore --- issues that seem to foreshadow some of the principal concerns of Translation Studies outlined by Susan Bassnett in Translation Studies (1980).  Prof. Bassnett discusses the main concerns of Translation Studies, or what she calls its ‘core issues’ in the introductory chapter of her book and they might perhaps be enumerated as follows:

1.  Language and Culture

  1. Types of translation
  2. Decoding and recoding
  3. Problems of equivalence
  4. Loss and gain
  5. Untranslatability
  6. Science or ‘secondary activity’? 

                                                           (Bassnett 14-37)  

Now let us examine how the basic issues of translation studies were addressed by Tagore in his life-long reflections on translation and translating. But it is needless to say that he did not discuss translation as systematically as Bassnett does in Translation Studies (1980).  The reason is not far to seek. Bassnett is an academic translation critic whereas Tagore is a creative writer- turned translation analyst.


 Translation which had traditionally been viewed as a transaction between two languages gradually became a complex negotiation between two cultures in the closing decade of the twentieth century. According to Ms. Bassnett, Translation Studies explores “the process whereby texts are transferred from one culture to another” (Bassnett xii) and Lefevere goes one step further to define translation as ‘a process of negotiation between cultures’ (Classe 1415). With time translation took a cultural turn and came to be popularly known as Cultural Translation. Tagore could not anticipate the ‘cultural turn’ that translation would take in the time to come and he seemed to have compromised on the question of culture in his effort to conform to the taste and appreciation of the Western people. Sometime in September 1914 he requested Edward Thompson, his first English biographer, to translate some of his short stories and bring out a selection of them that might appeal to the Western public, “Please make your own selection, for it is difficult for me to know which of my things will be palatable to the English taste” (emphasis added) (Pal 120). Tagore’s obsession with the palatability to the ‘English taste’ led Thompson to conclude that his [Tagore’s] ‘treatment of his Western public has sometimes amounted to an insult to their intelligence’ (Mukherjee106). Even Victoria Ocampo, his Argentinian friend and admirer, once ruefully commented in a different context, “Tagore had doubts as to the Westerners’ capacity of understanding Eastern thoughts” (A Centenary Volume p.44).


Unlike Roman Jakobson Tagore does not speak about different types of translation (‘intralingual’,‘interlingual’and intersemiotic’); he concentrates only on ‘interlingual’ translation, making a distinction (in his letter to Rothenstein dated 31 December 1915) between ‘rewriting’ and ‘translating’: “Macmillans are urging me”, writes Tagore “ to send them some translations of my short stories…. They require rewriting in English, not translating” (emphasis added) (Lago 216). Tagore here seems to imply is that rewriting is the other name for translation. It is concerned with ‘creative translation’ and translating, with ‘literal translation’. By ‘rewriting’ he means here the ‘creative translation’ or ‘rewriting’ of his poems by himself drawing on their thoughts and feelings in a different language. “I cannot translate, I have to write almost anew”, he is reported to have written (Lal 81) and ‘one cannot translate one’s works’, he once wrote to Ajit Kumar Chakravarty (Sarkar 164).  Here Tagore seems to have spoken of a new kind of translation  that Jakobson could not contemplate in his essay ‘On Linguistic Aspects of Translation’ (1959). This new form of translation is basically different from the three kinds of translations mentioned by Jakobson in his classification of translations. It was used by Tagore for translating his Gitanjali (1912) poems and was later adopted by Vladimir Nabokov (1899—1977) and Samuel Beckett (1906—1989) for rendering their works into English from their respective mother-tongues. This type of translation has been called ‘self-translation’, ‘auto-translation’ or ‘transcreation’ by translation scholars and Tagore seems to have given it a canonical status in the history of translation studies. In a short entry on “Self-Translators” included in Encyclopedia of Literary Translation into English (2000), Vol 2 Kristine J. Anderson refers to Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Nobokov and Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) as the ‘best known’ self-translators in the world (Classe 1250). But Anderson does not make even a passing reference to Tagore as a self-translator, though he won the Nobel Prize in 1913 for Gitanjali, an anthology of his Bengali poems translated into English by the poet himself. Even William Radice (1951-), the widely-known Tagore translator of the present time, remains silent on the issue of self-translation in his article on Tagore to be found the same Encyclopedia ,though he speaks of his [Tagore’s] world-wide reputation  through  the translations of his works obviously done by himself (Ibid 1251).

Decoding and Recoding

Tagore’s concept of translation as ‘rewriting’ or ‘recreation’ of the original text involves the process of decoding and recoding . In Translation Studies (1980)  Bassnett has discussed, with ample examples, the important role played by decoding and recoding in the translation process. But Tagore was not likely to be acquainted with any such concepts in his lifetime. Nevertheless, he came to experience the dual process of decoding and recoding when he rendered the Gitanjali poems into English in 1912. Though he did not coin any term to describe the processes of decoding and recoding, he spelt them out to describe the process of his translation, much before they gained currency in translation studies. In his much-quoted letter to Indira Devi (May 6, 1913) he tried to explain what he attempted to do in his translation of Gitanjali poems, “I simply felt an urge to recapture, through the medium of another language, the feelings and sentiments which had created such a feast of joy within me in past days” (Chakravarty 21). Again, writing to Kanti Chandra Ghosh in 1921 about the translation of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat Tagore comments in its Foreword, ‘muler bhabta diye setake nutan kore sristi kara darker’ (one needs to re-create that with the feeling of the original). In the above extracts the process of  ‘recoding’ or ‘rewriting’ is underlined through words like ‘recapture’ and ‘re-create’ whereas the term ‘decoding’ implies the process of capturing the message inherent in the original  --- message that is to be rewritten in the target language. Tagore seems to have played a pioneering role in articulating the processes of ‘decoding and recoding’ that later came to constitute an indispensable part of translation studies. Again, the processes of decoding and recoding seem to have prompted Tagore to define translation as ‘rewriting’ of the original  much before Lefevere used it in his definition of translation as ‘rewriting of the original text’.


One of the basic problems faced by a translator while rendering a text from one language to another is that of equivalence. Tagore was well aware of this basic problem of equivalence in translation from his first-hand experience of self-translation. In the introduction to Anubad-charcha (The Practice of Translation) written in 1917 for the students of his school in Shantiniketan he says, “Dui sampurna bibhinna bhasar madhya kathay kathay anubad chaltei pare na. Ingreji o Bangla dui bhasay prakasher pratha swatantra abm parasparer madhay shabda o pratishabder abikal mil paoa asambhav” (A word-for-word rendering cannot be done between two languages completely different from each other. The methods of expression between English and Bengali are different; it is therefore difficult to find complete equivalence between their words and their synonyms) (Tagore 375). Again, he seems to have obliquely referred to this problem of equivalence in his letter to Kanti Chandra Ghosh (29 Sravan1326;1921) who translated Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat in rhymed Bengali verse: “e rakam kabita ek bhasa theke anya bhaser chhanche  dhele deoya kothin. Karan er prodhan ginista bastu noy, gati.” (It is difficult to cast this type of poem from the mould of one language into that of another, for its main focus is on dynamism rather than matter’). Here Tagore seems to have underlined the lack of equivalence between two languages and distinguished between two types of equivalence. The first one seems to be concerned with ‘matter’ and the second one with ‘dynamism’. He seems to have foreshadowed here Nida’s ‘formal equivalence’ and ‘dynamic equivalence’ that he famously postulated in his seminal work Toward a Science of Translating (1964). But Tagore’s concepts of equivalence are somewhat different from those of Nida. His equivalence of ‘matter’, if one is permitted to use the expression, focuses exclusively on ‘the message’ in itself whereas Nida’s ‘formal equivalence’ concentrates on the ‘message itself, in both form and content’ (Nida159). Tagore does not refer to form in his writing on translation; for, in his view, form cannot be transferred from one language to another. This seems to account for his decision to translate his poems in unadorned prose rather than rhymed verse.

But Tagore’s concept of ‘dynamism’ seems to come closer to Nida’s ‘dynamic equivalence’. According to Nida, the goal of ‘dynamic equivalence’ is to seek ‘the closest natural equivalent to the source language message’ (Nida 166). The message, under this receptor-oriented approach, has to be adapted to the receptors’ linguistic and cultural expectations in order to achieve a ‘complete naturalness of expression’. In other words, the message has to be ‘domesticated’, to borrow Venuti’s word, in order that the target readers can attune themselves to it. Tagore’s commendation of Kanti Chandra Ghosh’s rendering of Omar’s Rubaiyat sums up his concept of ‘dynamism’: ‘Kabita lajuk badhur mato ek bhasar antahpur theke anya bhasar antahpure astegela adastha hoye jay. Tomar tarjamay tumi tar lajjwa bhangechho, tar ghomtar bhitar theka hasi dekha jachhey’ 4 (‘Poetry, like a shy bride hesitates to enter the inner world of one language from that of another. You have broken her shyness in your translation and her smile is being seen from within her veil’). According to Tagore, Ghosh succeeded in re-creating Omar’s Rubaiyat as independent poems in Bengali and the phrase ghomtar bhitar theka hasi dekha jachhey (smile is being seen from within her veil) points to their ‘dynamic equivalence’ and the creative nature of his rendering. By ‘dynamism’ Tagore here implies the ‘reincarnation’ of the original in the target language, or re-creation of the original in order to make independent poems in the receptor language. In a letter to Thomas Sturge Moore he once confesses frankly how he tries to give his ‘English poems’ ‘a foreign shine’ and ‘certain assumed gestures’ familiar to the English people (Dutta & Robinson 350). Consequently, his poems are re-born in the English language attaining a dynamic character of their own. A translation, as required by Nida, must be ‘natural’ and should not sound like a translation. According to Tagore, a translation, on the other hand, needs to be essentially creative and at the same time an independent work in its own right (Dasgupta 51). The concept of ‘dynamism’ that Tagore talks of in the context of Kantichandra Ghosh’s rendering of Omar’s Rubaiyat bears a striking resemblance to Nida’s ‘dynamic equivalence.


 The question of loss and gain in translation is one of the fundamental issues in translation studies. Tagore became aware of this issue of loss and gain in translation in the course of his translating experience and articulated his feelings in some of his letters at a time when the concept of translation studies was yet to gain ground in the English-speaking Western world. He made a plethora of observations on the vexed question of translation loss at different points of time, some of which are purely his self-translation- centric while the rest are concerned with translations in general. We find him writing to Rothenstein in a letter dated 7 June 1912, “I send you some more of my poems rendered into English…. I know you will understand them through their faded meanings” (Lago 49). What Tagore seems to imply here is that the freshness of the original meaning is considerably lost in its translation. In another letter to Harriet Monroe (31 December, 1913) he complains of the inevitable loss from which some of his translations suffer:  

     … I have been polishing the English versions of some of my narrative poems

            since we last met. I find it difficult to impart to them the natural vigour of

            the original poems. Simplicity appears anaemic and spectre-like when she

            lacks her ruddy bloom of life, which is the case with these translations of mine.

                                             (Emphasis added) (Dutta and Robinson 136).

Again, in another letter to Rothenstein (December 31,1915) Tagore sums up the translation loss that perturbed him from the beginning, “Macmillans are urging me to send them some translations of my short stories but I am hesitating for the reason that the beauty of the original can hardly be preserved in translation” (emphasis added )(Ibid 216). Again, in his letter to Thomas Sturge Moore (1870-1944) written on 11 June 1935 Tagore made the most interesting of his many statements on translations: “Translations, however, clever, can only transfigure dancing into acrobatic tricks, in most cases playing treasonagainst the majesty of the original” (emphasis added) (Dutta & Robinson 350). In the above excerpts Tagore simply touches upon the issue of translation loss but does not undermine translation itself. One should not, however, forget that he made the above remarks in the golden period (the ‘Gitanjali’ phase) of his translation career.

Since translation loss is inevitable, the translator makes use of his creative freedom to compensate it by rendering the original in keeping with his vision of life or the aesthetic, cultural and linguistic needs of the target readers. In his discussion of translation Tagore has time and again emphasized the creative power of a translator for the success of translation. If one goes through his letter to Ajit Kumar Chakravarty containing the seminal ideas of his translation thoughts, one comes across words like‘re-incarnation’ and ‘rebirth’ of the original. This ‘re-incarnation’ or ‘rebirth’ cannot come about unless the translator exercises his creative power while transferring the message from the Source Language to the Target Language.

Even when he speaks of the translation of his Gitanjali (1912), we find him using words like ‘re-incarnation’, ‘rebirth’, ‘transmutation’ etc which speak of the creative nature of his translations. Western translation theorists have suggested that translation of a poem or a creative work should be a poem or an original work. But they do not give us any concrete idea of how this comes about. Tagore here speaks of ‘transcreation’ or ‘creative translation’ in which the spirit of the original undergoes a ‘rebirth’ or‘re-incarnation’ in the target language. The ‘reincarnation’ of the original comes about in the target language only through the transmigration of its essential spirit or soul.  With this ‘transmigration’ the source text achieves translation gain that every translator aspires to.  The success of a translation ultimately depends on the ‘reincarnation’ of the original in the target language. By introducing the concepts of ‘rewriting’,‘re-incarnation’ and the ‘transmigration of soul’ Tagore seems to have added an Indian dimension to translation and translating.


Untranslatability is one of the basic issues that have troubled the translators down the ages. Bassnett has cited two types of untranslatability --- linguistic and cultural --- (also mentioned by Catford and Popovic respectively) that one finds in a translation. Tagore was well aware of the problem of untranslatability from his own experience as a self-translator. Unlike Catford or Popovic he did not distinguish them in his speculation on translation. In an interview to Musical America on 27 November, 1920 Tagore raised the issue of untranslatibility in the following way:

          There is no such thing as ‘good’ translation in the sense of re-expressing what

          is said in the original. A translation may be a re-incarnation but it cannot be

          identical….the sound of a word has a significance utterly apart from its meaning.

          …as you cannot take the sound of a word but only its meaning into another

            language, just so you can never really translate from one language into another. ( Lal 110).

The subtle nuances of words and their associations are normally steeped in a particular culture and it is very difficult to transfer or capture them in a foreign tongue. Tagore addressed this problem again while discussing the issue of poetry translation in his private letters and interviews. In his discussion with Romain Rolland in 1926 he explains this issue:

            In poetry a particular word possesses a subtle atmosphere of its own literary

            associations. The peculiar value of such words will never be intelligible to

            foreigners; they cannot be appreciated as being supremely beautiful by

             merely listening to them, or even by merely understanding their literal

              meaning, for the association will be lacking…. (Das 893).

The ‘peculiar value of words’ and their ‘associations’ represent the particular culture from which they originate. Faced with the problem of untranslatability the translator, Tagore feels, needs to ‘rewrite’ or ‘re-create’ the original poems drawing on their feelings and sentiments. This is how poems acquire a new ‘incarnation’ in the receptor language and this causes a great ‘divergence’ between the original and its translation. Tagore elaborates this point in an interview to Portland Press in Washington (23 October 1916):

         My English translations are not the same. Each country has its symbols of

         expression. So when I translate my work I find new images and presently

         new thought and finally it is something almost new. The fundamental idea

         is the same but the vision changes. A poem cannot be translated, it can only

         be relived in a different atmosphere. (emphasis added)(Roy 246).


There has been a controversy about the status of translation among the translation critics-- is it a science or a secondary activity? According to Bassnett, with the establishment of Translation Studies as a separate discipline this age-old controversy has ceased to exist and translation is being viewed now as creating a new text in the target language. Bassnett sums up the whole issue by quoting Octavio Paz who said in 1971, “Every translation, up to a certain point, is an invention and as such it constitutes a unique text” (Bassnett 38). Interestingly, more than half a century ago Tagore made a similar observation about the translated text. Interviewed by the correspondent of Musical America on 27 November 1920 he, as has been already mentioned, said that a translation is the ‘reincarnation’ of the original but it cannot be ‘identical’ with it. He has, therefore, no hesitation to accept the translations of his poems as original works. Disagreeing with Robert Bridges’ proposal to revise a poem from Gitanjali for inclusion in his anthology of poems  The Spirit of Man he wrote to Rothenstein in 1915, “ …Since I have got my fame as an English writer, I feel extreme reluctance in accepting alterations in my English poems by any of your writers” (emphasis added)(Lago 195). And he expresses the same view in his letter to Helen Meyer-Franck in 1934 about her translations of his poems, “… one forgets entirely the fact that they are translations; one reads them as original poetry” (emphasis added) (Kampchen andPal143). Finally, in his translation of Gitanjali (1912) he demonstrates how translation is elevated to the height of creative literature.

Thus, Tagore initiated the discussion / study of the major issues and concerns of Translation Studies in the first three decades of the twentieth century; but he fails to foresee its gradual tilt towards Cultural Studies and ‘Polysystem’ theory in the closing decade of the last century. As he died almost half-a-century before the emergence of the new discipline, he should not be blamed for not anticipating the latest developments in Translation Studies.

[Unless otherwise indicated all translations used in this article are by the author and his inability to seek permission from authors and publishers for quoting relevant copyrighted passages/ statements is sincerely regretted.]


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                              The Colonial Context. Hyderabad: Orient Longman. 1992 print.

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                                        Tagore.  New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers. 2007 print.

Rabindranath Tagore: A Centenary Volume. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 1961print.

Riccardi,Alessandra ed. Introduction to Translation Studies: Perspectives on

                  an  Emerging Discipline. London: Cambridge University Press. 2002 print.

Tagore, Rabindranath. Rabindra Rachanavali. Vol. XV. Visva-Bharati. 125th Birth                                       

                                          Anniversary popular edn.1398 (1991) print.

Venuti, Lawrence. The Translation Studies Reader. London :Routledge. 2000 print.

Dr. Subhas Chandra Dasgupta is ex-Associate Professor of  English at Raiganj University.

                             He can be reached  at  < subhasdg 19@ gmail.com >

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