Articles and Reviews

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Review of "Shatamanada Kavi Yeats" by Dr. U.R.Ananthamurthy

Bengaluru: Abhinava, 2008                                   pp. 128; price: 75/-
                   “A Valuable Contribution to Yeats-Studies”

William Butler Yeats (1845-1939) was an unbelievably complex person: he was a great poet-playwright, leader of the Celtic Renaaissance, and a believer in Spiritualism and Occultism.    His love for the fiery revolutionary, Maud Gonne, is legendary; though she consistently refused to marry him, he couldn’t forget her, and she figured in many of his famous poems.   

A great admirer of  Vedanta philosophy, having studied Hinduism under the guidance of the Theosophist Mohini Chatterjee, he held that the movement of history was cyclical, and that beginning with the Christian era, one cycle of civilization was coming to an end by the 20th century (A Vision).     His famous poem “Second Coming” describes such an end of this world in a violent manner, through a beast reminiscent of ‘Narasimha.’    He was instrumental in introducing Tagore to the West.   Twice nominated to the first Irish Senate, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929; and the citation read: “ … inspired poetry which, in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.”   

     Many major poems of Yeats have been translated into Kannada from time to time.  While Lakshminarayana Bhatta has translated 50 of  Yeats’ poems (Chinnada Hakki, 1990),    Ramachandra Sharma has translated seven (Ee Shatamaanada Nuru English Kavanagalu, 1982), and Ananthamurthy 17 (Shatamaanada Kavi Yeats, 2009).  Many of the poems are common among all the three translations.

     Ananthamurthy’s translations first appeared in his influential journal Rujuvaatu.   The present work contains, in addition to those poems, the long  introduction to Yeats’ poetry (written as Preface to Chinnada Hakki),  and another long essay, first delivered as a lecture in Bangalore University, titled “ The Poetry of Yeats and Politics.”  While the first essay  brilliantly analyses the complex dualities of both the person and poet (body and soul, mind and heart, Art and Life, etc.),  the second lecture critically views Yeats’ poetry in the context of modern Indian /Kannada poetry, and brings in very interesting comparative points with reference to Tagore, Adiga, and Kambara.  Scholarly notes also to eight of the poems along with a short bibliography are given after the translations.    That the Kannada translations are given along with the English originals is an added help to the reader.   The translations include some of the major poems of Yeats like “ Easter 1916,” “Leda And The Swan,” “Sailing To Byzantium,” and “A Prayer For My Daughter.”     

     The nature, process and purpose of the art of translation have been debated endlessly, ever since Dryden in the 17th century.  While one school believes that a translation should be totally faithful to the original,  the other  holds that it should be  a ‘trans-creation’; and, in between these two extremes,  each translator has to choose his own position depending on his literary-cultural predilections.    

       Among the three translators of Yeats mentioned above, whereas L. N. Bhatta is very faithful to the original with his attempts to catch even the rhythm and movement of the original,   Ananthamurthy and Sharma  do take considerable liberties with the original.  Both the forms or strategies of translation have their inbuilt strengths and weaknesses.   Using free verse and spoken language, Ananthamurthy attempts to catch the spirit of the poem if not every shade of thought.  Although one can enter into an argument about many of his translations, it cannot be taken up here owing to lack of space.  

      However, one can surely say that the present work, with its notes and two scholarly essays appended to it,  provides a very valuable and  critical approach to Yeats the poet and the man.   In fact, Ravikumar (the publisher) could think of bringing out such works on other major poets also.
Dr. C. N. Ramachandran

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