From Publishers Weekly
Rabindranath Tagore's poetry is notoriously difficult to transport intact from Bengali to English, even when the poet himself was doing the translating. Yet in a new selection of Tagore's Final Poems, written as the poet anticipated death (which came in 1941), Wendy Barker (Way of Whiteness) and Saranindranath Tagore, a great-nephew of Rabindranath and professor of philosophy at the National University of Singapore, have succeeded wonderfully. The collection is padded with the translators' long preface and introduction, but the 50-odd pages of poems are rife with hard clarity: "Sorrow's dark night over and over/ has come to my door./ Its only visible weapons / pain's deformed poses, fear's monstrous forms / play out their deceptions in darkness."
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The great Bengali poet and Nobel laureate Tagore (1861-1941) was a versatile and unceasingly creative man who wrote in every literary form, composed songs, painted, and achieved renown as an educational reformer. In his introduction to the first English translation of selections from Tagore's last four books, Saranindranath Tagore, the poet's great-grandson and translator, celebrates the poet's life and, along with cotranslator Barker, discusses the difficulties involved in translating Tagore's brilliantly nuanced Bengali into English. But such concerns fall away in the presence of these exquisite poems. Written while Tagore was in extreme pain and moving slowly but inexorably toward death, they are compact, elegant, contemplative, and riveting lyrics that pierce the quiet realm of planets and stars, then dive back to the flowery, noisome Earth, where beauty and ugliness, life and death entwine. Tagore, poignant and wise, ponders love, fear, time, memory, and the porousness of the self in poems of wonder, sorrow, and solace. Hopefully, these precious final works will inspire renewed interest in Tagore's entire oeuvre. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved