A Chinese translation of Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore's works has irked at least one of his admirers in China. A columnist in a state-run daily has termed as vulgar a translation of the 19th century Indian's poems by Chinese writer Feng Tang.
"There's a fine line between imprinting creative works with unique personality and screaming for attention. Feng Tang just crossed it when he translated Tagore's tranquil verse into a vulgar selfie of hormone-saturated innuendo," Raymond Zhou wrote in his column titled, "Lust in translation," published in the China Daily on 21 December.
Feng recently published a translation of Stray Birds, a collection of lyrical poems by Tagore. Zhou said the poems, published in Tagore's middle age, are "known for their simplicity and sublime beauty".
"The language flows like a mountain stream, with no hint of artificial tinkering or mannerisms," he said of the collection. "Never in a thousand years would I guess there was a horny teenager behind these lines. Thanks to the new Chinese translation, I was jolted out of my complacency," Zhou added, criticising Feng's translation of the poems.
Tagore, the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize (1913), is much loved in China and there are many Chinese versions of his poetry, Zhou said. He said it was not surprising one more would appear but accused Feng of translating Tagore's words as if they were his own.
The columnist cited a few verses from Tagore's original poems and said Feng's translation has "turned into an instant classic for ridicule, rather than for appreciation."
"Take this line: 'The great Earth makes herself hospitable with the help of the grass,'" he wrote. "Feng's rendition is: 'Because of green grass, the great Earth becomes quite horny.'"
Zhou cited another example: "Tagore's original says: '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.'"