Poet, painter, social reformer and institution builder, Rabindranath Tagore stands as one of the most iconic Indians in the global scenario. Revered in Bengal, he has created a whole industry around himself that thrives even after 150 years of his birth, while his institution, Visva-Bharati, is now a bustling central university. However, Tagore’s iconic status remains restricted largely within Bengal and India today.
The problem of translation looms large in this case and is most evident in the publishing industry around his writings. With the expiry of the copyright, Tagore is available in various editions and at affordable rates. But inadequate translation into English and other Indian languages means that the breathtaking variety of his works largely remained unknown outside Bengal. While recent attempts are being made to correct this (the Oxford and Rupa series on Tagore are notable examples) in English, translations in regional and other foreign languages need further impetus. Tagore collections that might familiarise audiences with the range of Rabindranath’s creativity are few and far between and their production remains leaves much to be desired.
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