Gunter Grass once told “Translation is that which transforms everything so that nothing changes.” After reading the translated poems of Pranab Kumar Barman in the recently published book Weep Not My Love of Dr. Ranajana Bhattacharyya one may have the same feeling. Earlier she translated one of Pranab Kumar Barman’s novel Charitrahina into English. But this time a more tough job she had done by rendering into English the evocative and poignant Assamese poems of Pranab Kumar Barman who needs no introduction.
He is a renowned poet faithful in his natural surroundings, his soil and culture as his themes focus on his being the son of the soil. He shows his sensibility towards the socio-political reality of our time with ridicule and sometimes as a wave of intrinsic anger though he is more interested in focusing on love and lost love.
Contemporary Assamese poems are at par with any other poetic stream of Indian tradition. Weep Not My love contains one hundred poems of love, war and social reality. Dr. Bhattacharyya has used local and regionalized words in the translated version and successfully overcome the peculiarities of the poetic phrasing by grasping the right mood and tenor of the original poems as she told in the preface” I just tried to keep the insight and intuition of the poet neither normalizing nor exoticizing the flavor of the original.” One problem is that the orginal poem is not given along with the English translation.
The first poem ‘Suicide Note’ is a famous poem of Pranab where we get lines like “In your warm bosom I was growing/ From a nascent crescent to a full moon”.
Here the rendering reminds us of what Ken Liu said about the translation of poetry “Every act of communication is a miracle of translation.” In spite of the selection of romantic poems is a priority but we get some poems giving a reflection of social reality as in the poem ‘Confession of a Raped Girl’ which ends with a desperate cry of the victim. ‘Your honour my lord / These are my words/ Now I wish, three of them / Should get cut their penis / And ever be in virile males.”
The forceful translation of the realistic lines from a romantic poet makes this book so valued and relevant today when a Dalit girl is raped openly by members of upper-class people with the sponsorship of the administration. Other realistic poems have vigorous tone and tenor unimpaired in series of poems entitled’ When War Breaks’, ‘When War Increases’ ‘Let’s Rename the Wars’ War Can’t Be a Spring’ reminding us of Wilfred Owen’s ‘Spring Offensive’.
Poems of hard social reality include, ‘In Search of a Job’ Refugee series of poems, ‘Corona’ ‘Seven Soldiers Died Seven Terrorists’. Some poems are stunning in precision such as ‘Prosperous Time’ or ‘Loneliness’,’Letter and Words of Love’ which begin and end in just five lines while some suggestive sensuousness seem too loud in poems like ‘To Neeru’ contrasted with the titular long poem ‘Weep Not My Love’ contains brilliant symbolic lines “Weep not my love, weep not / I’ll take you to the tree.”
Pranab Kumar Barman has to his credit 44 books and 29 of them are anthologies of poems while 15 are fiction. So selection of poems from this prolific poet is a challenging task and Dr. Ranjana did that with profound care and academic acumen. She mingled the romantic with the realistic as many know Pranab to be basically a romantic poet of love.
A number of his poems were translated into Bengali, Odia and Hindi but a full book of his poems in English translation will enable the renowned poet to a wider pan-India platform and Dr. Ranjana has successfully done the job.
She herself being Associate Professor of English at Nalbari College having experience of teaching at Post Graduate level, and having experience of editing books including Comparative Literature, Language and Linguistics, Oral Narratives, Culture and Translation Studies, it is expected that she will do the rendering in the best way possible and really she nailed it.
She has successfully fulfilled her aim of bringing out noteworthy works of Assamese literature to a wider readership. Weep Not My Love as a title apparently seems not reflect the exact spirit of the poems in the book but broadly seen it is the very perfect title as the poems reveal a sadness either it is caused by lost love, or rape or war or unemployment or any other unfulfilled desires and cravings in the human heart.
A poet can provide the balm to the lacerated soul and Pranab’s realistic and romantic poems usually are resonant with a note of sympathy and grace. Here the selection of the poems is quite appropriate and the title reflects the keynote.
The last few lines of the last poem ‘Sagorika’ will resonate forever in the heart of the readers: ‘Bless me with the ink of blood/To fill my pen up/Words of gun powder/I must write”
The cover design by Manjit Rajkhowa is undoubtedly exquisite and the layout by Ramen Rajbongshi adds to the excellence of the presentation.
Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee teaches English at Dum Dum Motijheel College, Kolkata. He can be reached at [email protected]