No move to take Nazrul onto international stage
Experts tell New AgeZiaul Hasan
The poetry of Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) is the golden treasure of Bangla literature. The nation has honoured him by conferring the status of the national poet and several other state honours such as Ekushey Padak.
It’s true that many centres of learning and culture in India and Bangladesh have been founded and dedicated to his memory. As done by many nations in case of their leading poets, no substantial step has been taken so far to promote the poet internationally since Nazrul and his family were brought to independent Bangladesh on 24 May 1972.
The rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, who is remembered and interpreted in two states: Bangladesh and Pashchimbanga in India, is still one of the most important and yet understudied figures of colonial and post-colonial South Asia.
Singularly non-communal, Nazrul drew upon mixed Hindu and Muslim cultural traditions, yet less than five percent of his literary works have been translated from Bangla into any language, and few studies of Nazrul exist outside the Bengali-reading world, observe the scholars.
Some individuals with their own funding have been conducting research and translations of the works of the national poet, but no such institutional works is evident in the country.
Some foreign scholars and institutes took some projects to translate Nazrul’s works and translated those into Spanish, Urdu, French, Chinese, German and few other languages.
The responsible government organisation Nazrul Institute sometimes publishes these translations and research but has not taken any initiative nor has the government to promote him internationally, the Nazrul exponents observe.
‘The government has declared Nazrul the national poet but it hasn’t taken any significant initiatives to promote him.
There are no Nazrul scholars or department dedicated for Nazrul in any public university. There is a university [Kazi Nazrul University] named after him where seldom research works are done at that university,’ said eminent singer and researcher Mustafa Zaman Abbasi, the author of several books on Nazrul in English.
‘It is not possible for the scholars to conduct translations by their own means. These works are time and money consuming,’ Abbasi added.
Supplementing Abbasi, another Nazrul exponent professor Rafiqul Islam, the chairman of the trustee board of Nazrul Institute, told New Age ‘Getting fund is the primary problem and finding the right people for doing the task is even a greater challenge.’
‘I agree that there are many scholars in the country who can translate Nazrul’s works into English. But my observation says the English they use is not appropriate to attract the contemporary readers in the west,’ professor Islam added.
Professor Islam, who also initiated such endeavours a year ago forming an organisation named International Centre for Nazrul to promote Nazrul across the globe, is also staggering due to fund and resource crises.
The Nazrul exponents further inform that the western institutes rather are better patrons of the Nazrul scholars. University of Glasgow in Scotland initiated The Nazrul-Burns Centre in 2009 for comparative study on the rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and the great Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Two US based universities- University of California, Los Angeles and University of Connecticut have Nazrul endowment funds to hold annual conference in different cities where Nazrul artistes present songs, poems and dances.
‘It’s a pity that we cannot respect the talents like the foreigners do. We should learn from them. Our government should open Nazrul departments in universities and include more works of Nazrul in the national curriculum,’ Abbasi said.
‘We need new blood for doing the translations. I believe that the children of Bangladeshi expatriates in the Western world should come forward in translating national poet’s works because they are adept in contemporary English,’ professor Rafiqul Islam.
Both the scholars also observed that strengthening the Nazrul Institute is a must in the situation.
‘The Nazrul Institute is a small organisation and never gets necessary funding from the government,’ said Abbasi.
‘Despite financial restraints, we are doing our best to promote Nazrul globally. Since the establishment of the institute in 1984, funds were bestowed to seven scholars for their PhD thesis.
Moreover, we have published about 500 books both in Bengali and English on the poet,’ informed Rashid Haider, executive director of the Nazrul Institute, a ministry of cultural affairs funded organisation set to promote Kazi Nazrul Islam.
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The poetry of Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) is the golden treasure of Bangla literature. The nation has honoured him by conferring the status of the national poet and several other state honours such as Ekushey Padak. Full story
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