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Imagery and Symbols

Ashok K. Mohapatra

By Jibanananda Das
Meteor Books, Kolkata, 2004, pp. 111, Rs.150.00


Translation is a desperate act, but culturally imperative and worth every attempt, on the part of the translator, to mediate between a canonical author and an eager reader when they are divided linguistically. Even as it seems quite disconcerting to me to be linked up with the fellow-Indian poet Jibanananda Das (1899¬1954) in a sahridaya bhdba only with the help of an English translation of his poems by Joe Winter (an Englishman), I must make peace with my postcoloniality, leaving aside as useless the speculation if I could have been more fortunate with an Oriya or a Hindi translation of the poet, which some people may argue to be more "authentic". Quite a few of Jibanananda's poems in English translation are already available in the form of books and online, often done by native speakers of English. But I have enjoyed reading-must confess-Naked Lonely Hand, discovering in this anthology of translation a treasure-house of Jibanananda's poetic wealth, which the poet c4~t!o!llbothB~ngal and the West. In its infinitely elegant lyricism this book of translation evokes the rich visual details of the local flora and fauna of Barisal, East Bengal (now Bangladesh), glimpses of local culture, folk images and tropes from the verse¬narratives Manasamangal and Cahndimangal, and above all the feel of the Indian seasons together with the smell, colours and sounds of the landscape with which Jibanananda wove a tapestry of magical beauty.   This slender book of translation includes the choicest lyrical pieces from seven chronologically arranged books from Bengal the Beautiful (Rupasi Bangia) to Time Bad Time Black Time (Bela Abela Kalbela) with great care, albeit perhaps not being able to refute accusations of having missed out on so many equally exquisitely beautiful poems. But Winter is not to blame for such lapses, for the Jibanananda afficionados among Bengali readership know almost all his poems too well to be forgiving towards the book on this count. As for myself, I am an "outsider" (a non¬Bengali), as Winter himself. However, to me the arrangement of the poems seems to suggest the trajectory of movement from a blissfully sensuous engagement with nature in Bengal the Beautiful to the discontents of a world ravaged by the Second World War and the partition of Bengal as in '1946-47' (Time Bad Time Black Time). Indeed, one cannot but notice a clear contrast between the short poem 'Evening' of ...

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