China's Literary Police to Feng Tang: Don't Touch Our Tagore!
By Bruce Humes, published
Once again, we are reminded that poetry matters in China. And, equally interesting, that translation of poetry matters.
Feng Tang, author of Beijing, Beijing (北京北京 冯唐著), has apparently crossed the lines of decency with his new translation of verse by China's favorite foreign poet, Rabindranath Tagore. Just in case the world didn't know about this travesty, the Party's English mouthpiece, China Daily, has published an essay, Lust in Translation, about the “testosterone-driven” translator's very personal take on the work of this Bengali poet.
One example cited by Raymond Zhou in his China Daily piece:
"The world puts off its mask of vastness to its lover. It becomes small as one song, as one kiss of the eternal." But Feng's take is: "The wide world unzipped its crotch to its lover. Long as a tongue kiss, small as a line of a poem."
I wonder if something hasn't been lost (or gained!) in translation here . . .
Two questions for Paper Republicans:
1) Didn't Tagore write in Bengali? If so, isn't his English work already a translation? This would make Feng Tang's rendition a translation of a translation, since I assume he worked from the English.
2) Can someone find 1-2 poems by Tagore and put them up online with Feng Tang's Chinese versions so we can compare for ourselves?
You can read Raymond Zhou's piece here in English, and a similarly critical piece (not exactly the same, however) here in Chinese.