Rethinking Tagore in Spain

Rethinking Tagore in Spain

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rethinking tagore in spain

rethinking tagore in spain

Tagore’s visit to Spain never materialized. In a letter to his translator Zenobia Camprubi, Tagore wrote that ‘the idea of Spain has such a deep attraction in my mind’ that he wanted to ‘come into an intimate touch with the heart of Spain’. For a long period of time in the 20th century, Spain had a torrid fling with the Indian bard but now it is getting effaced out of public memory. “Tagore en Espana” (Tagore in Spain) was held across three Spanish cities of Barcelona, Salamanca and Valladolid in a two-day event filled with discussions, paper presentations, poetry readings, music, dance and art highlighting the different facets of Tagore’s genius, many of which is not much known in Spain.

Tagore in Spain targeted at the youth, aimed seeking to change the conventional stereotype of Tagore as an “Oriental mystic” to that of a true internationalist who was politically engaged, constantly in dialogue with other disciplines and one who speaks to us today not only through his poetry but also plays, novels, music and painting.

‘In the years between the two wars, Tagore became an international celebrity and an indefatigable globe-trotter, his poetry impacting the lives of many writers and his “exotic”persona creating a spell wherever he went. However, his popularity in Europe and USA declined as dramatically as his meteoric rise soon after the First World War and his Nobel Prize in 1913. The sole exception was Spain where he continued to be extremely popular and exerted an immense influence on the Generation of 1898 and later’, says Prof S.P. Ganguly, ex- Chairperson of Spanish Studies at JNU, New Delhi.

tagores portrai

A book, “Redescubriendo a Tagore” (Rediscovering Tagore) has been brought out by Prof. S.P. Ganguly and Indranil Chakravarty, Professor of Film Appreciation at Whistling Woods International Film Institute in Mumbai. The book is a collector’s item with 12 full-page colour reproductions of his paintings and his musical compositions in western staff notation. It brings together the reflections on Tagore by some of the finest minds in India, Spain and Latin America. It also shows the diverse aspects of his multi-faceted genius, perhaps unrivalled anywhere in the world in terms of creative output. This book intends to revive Tagore in Spanish and Latin American life by putting together a book of essays by specialists. All the available translations in Spanish add up to less than 5% of his literary output.

A seminar (Tagore in Spain) titled ‘Tagore’s presence in Spain’ was organised with local specialists on Tagore along with some scholars who are also Spanish experts such as Prof. S.P. Ganguly of JNU, William Radice (Tagore’s foremost translator in English) and José Paz (the Spanish Tagore scholar who has the world’s largest collection of Tagore publications). There were sessions of reading, recitation and music in Spanish, English and Bengali of a selection of Tagore’s poetry, and plays. This turned out to be the first-ever contact between Spanish and Bengali through Tagore. One of its finest exponents of Rabindrasangeet, Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta demonstrated how Tagore had often drawn upon western melody and other musical genres and then transformed them in his own way. Cinema based on Tagore’s novella’s were also screened. Andalusian flamenco singers sang the ‘deep’ flamenco (cante jondo) based on Tagore’s lyrics. There was exhibition of Tagore’s books in Spanish by Prof. José Paz, the major collector of Tagore publications.

‘From 1972, I have been dedicating an extensive chapter of the modules I teach at the Education Faculty of my city, Ourense to Tagore and is pedagogical work, in order to provide my students with an introduction to his educational model. In these lectures, we read his educational texts, poetry, excerpts of his work, his aphorisms and then we sit together and discuss them.’ says Prof José Paz of University of Vigo. He has founded the Tagore Library of Ourense. Interestingly, Prof Paz spends a considerable part of his time every year at Shantiniketan and is conversant in Bengali over speaking, reading and even writing.

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NGI November 2013