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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 35 | September 09 , 2007|


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When Bangla bards face Shakespearian sonnets

Munira Islam

So is it not with me as with that Muse,
Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse,
------Sonnet 21
To me, fair friend, you never can be old;
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
------Sonnet 104

Young readers can enjoy the reading of literary creations in other languages through translation. But successful translation of literary works, especially poems from original to another language is extremely difficult and fraught with the danger of misrepresenting the original poems.

Dr. Selim Sarwar, a poet himself, who had been teaching English literature in and outside Bangladesh for many years and now Chairman, English Department, North South University, was speaking on the topic “When the Bard Spoke Bangla: Towards a Poetics of the Bengali Renditions of Shakespeare's Sonnets” at a Lecture Series on English Studies, organised by the Language Centre, Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) at Baridhara campus last week. Prof. Shawkat Hossain of Dhaka University, now at IUB, introduced the speaker to the audience. This is the second lecture on translation of literature and IUB is doing a good job focusing on the necessity of translation for the younger readers.

Dr. Sarwar compared the translation of Shakespeare's sonnet by Sudhindra Nath Dutta, Bisnu Dey, Prof. Zillur Rahman Siddiqui and Sudhangsu Ranjan Ghosh and out of it came out three issues which a translator would have to keep on focus when translating specially poems. First, a translator is to read the poem carefully to understand may be through changing it into prose order. Secondly, the translator, then faces the most difficult task of interpretation of the content in its context so that the original character remains unchanged and thirdly, to find suitable and appropriate dictions and images which would keep the beauty of the original work.

In analyzing the translation of Sudhindra Nath Dutta, Dr. Sarwar commented that “reading” and 'interpretation' reflected the original but his choice of dictions, rhetoric as well as the style remained typically his own used in his poems, so, as if, one is reading his work, not of Shakespeare. Dr. Sarwar finds Bisnu Dey's translation of sonnets like that of Sudhindra, nearer to the original as regards “reading”, and “interpretation” but in use of rhetoric, dictions and style, Bishnu Dey differed by not imprinting the style of his own poems.

Dr. Sarwar was very critical of the translation of Sudhangsu Ghosh saying that he departed too much from the original because of his “improper reading” and interpretation. He quoted a number of couplets and then gave Mr. Ghosh's version in Bangla showing the departure. He spoke of Prof. Zillur Rahman Siddiqui's translation with better appreciation and added that like others he has also gone through the struggle to retain the beauty of the original.

Dr. Sarwar was of the opinion that the complex love relations in the sonnets, the enigma over the “lover”, the sense of morality of the Shakespearian society, our inhibitions, obscure references etc. also add more problems for the translators to translate in such a way which is acceptable to our society. In course of his lecture, he quoted both from the original and Bangla translation of a number of sonnets, done by the four translators to support his points and appreciated their courage in putting their hands in the difficult task of rendering Shakespearian sonnets into Bangla. Dr. Sarwar is also a translator of Shakespeare's sonnet and on the occasion recited three of his translation for the audience.


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