Poetics of Jibanananda Das

 A.H. Jaffor Ullah

Published on April 02, 2006


Hello M-M forum members and others who are visiting this forum:

You may have read some harsh criticism of Mr. Syed Aslam [1 | 2] regarding the translation that I did of one of the top twenty poems of Jibanananda Das. But when I took a difficult poem by the same author (not in the top twenty list, which most ordinary Bangalees know), then Mr. Aslam decides to make any comment whatsoever. In fact, I was hoping he would make some nasty comment about my butchering of Das�s poems. By the way, that poem concerning River Styx was picked up by an American editor from New York City to be published in the future. The editor first read it in M-M forum soon after it was posted. So much for Syed Aslam's criticism!

Banalata Sen vs. Suranjana:

Mr. Aslam is transfixed in the name the poet used in various poems. Lest we forget, Banalata Sen is Das�s femme fatale. Banalata Sen�s name shows up in more than one poem. She is from Natore as per the poet. Therefore, no one is going to translate word-for-word Ms. Sen�s name. However, what about Suranjana? She does not have a last name, nor does she have an address. As I said, literary critics from Bengal thinks Das had a way with words. That is precisely the reason why I took the liberty of calling Suranjana not Suranjana. In fact, it would have been the easiest thing for me to call Suranjana - Suranjana.

In one of his poem Das called the river of dead �Baitarani� and I took the liberty of calling it the River Styx. Now, why did I do that? I figured the English version of the poem will be read by non-Bengalis. The western readers will strike a chord with Das�s poem if I call the Baitarani River � River Styx. This time Mr. Syed Aslam did not make any comment. And I wonder why?

Translating others� work (prose or poem) is a tricky thing. A translator knows it darn well but still a brave soul takes the onus on him or her to do it. Mr. Aslam acted like an obscurantist. He thinks people who do not have poetical sensibility should stay out of it. But I think we should encourage others to do translation of Bangla poems. That way, others who do not read or understand Bangla could appreciate the works of Tagore, Dey, Basu, and other myriad of Bengali poets.

Parenthetically, I would like to add one more thing. From the style of Mr. Syed Aslam�s writing I can bet my bottom dollar that he writes using a nom de plume - an euphemism for fake name. Why do I say that? Because a person with a real name does not lambaste or abuse others like the way Mr. Aslam did. Take the case of the man from New York who writes using a female name. �She� had abused so many people in the Net that we stopped counting the number. Mr. Aslam is following his friend. Is it so hard to tell people in a milder tone that they lack poetic sensibility? That will be enough for today.


Jaffor Ullah
Honness Lane Ithaca, New York