Saturday, May 9, 2020

How Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize

"Tagore's career as an Indian English poet began by sheer accident. In 1912, on the eve of his departure to England for medical treatment, he tried his hand at translating some of his Bengali poems into English. The manuscript, taken to England, was lost in the Tube Railway, retrieved by Tagore's son Rathindranath, and came later to be rapturously hailed by William Rothenstein and W. B. Yeats. The rest is history.

Gitanjali (1912) took the literary world of London by storm and was followed in quick succession by The Gardener (1913) and The Crescent Moon (1913). The award of the Nobel Prize came in the same year. More collections followed Fruit-Gathering (1916), Stray Birds (1916), Lover's Gift and Crossing (1918) and The Fugitive (1921).

By the time Tagore's reputation in the English-speaking world had already suffered a disastrous decline. Only two more volumes in English appeared: Fireflies (1928) and the posthumously published Poems (1942) of which all but the last nine were translated by Tagore himself."

Source: M. K. Naik, A History of Indian English Literature, Sahitya Akademi, 1982.

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