This series about the winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in literature, Rabindranath Tagore, aims to promote certain mostly ignored aspects of this universal man, like the great thinker, the philosopher, the educator, the activist, and cosmopolitan figure being in contact with the great men of his time including Einstein. Beyond the Indian culture, the universal validity of his message shows us the pertinence of his ideas for our time. Tagore speaks to us and for our tomorrow.
Rabindranath Tagore (1860-1940), Nobel Prize in literature 1913 for his anthology of poems titled Gitanjali, Song Offerings (a compilation of different collections containing only 53 of the original Bengali Gitānjalī) was the first Nobel laureate from outside Europe, representing India and thus the first Nobel Prize of the Far East. Venerated as a poet and writer who excelled in different genres, he was in fact an educator pioneering a new school system, a thinker, a reformer and revolutionary as well as a world traveler; a painter as well as a political activist; a land reformer just as much as a highly rated messenger between East and West whose encounters with the greats of all continents fueled the much needed dialog of cultures and civilizations. His interest in science had him meet with Einstein; lesser is known about his meeting with Heisenberg (1927), one of the founding fathers of quantum physics. Two of his poems have become national anthems (for India and Bangladesh), and the school and university he founded (Visva-Bharati) are still reputed institutions.
Shortly before Gitanjali, Song Offerings was published in 1912, Tagore had, in 1910, published in Bengali/Bangla his 157 poems rich Gitānjalī – the basis of his award-winning text. A hundred years later, The Other Gitānjalī, by Rabindranath Tagore now is the first translation by an internationally renowned Bengali linguist and a Tagore specialist – a native poet-author translating directly from Bengali into English. Romain Rolland (Nobel 1915) had commented: Tagore is for us the symbol of spirit, of light and harmony – the song of eternity rising up from the sea of unchained passions.
The Nobel committee had stated: his rhythmically balanced style … combines at once the feminine grace of poetry with the virile power of prose. Udaya Narayana Singh, professor of linguistics and recognized poet-essayist himself, ex-vice president of the University Visva-Bharati (wikipedia) founded by Tagore, undertook this challenge of rendering the deep beauty of rhythm and sound of the Bengali language, which underlies the magic that Tagore’s mastery unfolds – and so offers to us, as close as is possible, in a milestone translation – the authentic singing that Tagore lay before the world. In his in-depth analysis preceding Tagore’s poems, Singh also discusses the on-the-spot translations of 1914 by André Gide and Juan Ramón Jiménez. Thus for the first time his work provides an insight into where these poems are rooted and shows a Tagore “non-Occidentalised” – but so much more a universal poet.