The first non-European and Asian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature was the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore; he is still the only Indian to win the prize and one of under half a dozen writers from Asia. Though the prize is awarded not for a single book but for a body of work, Tagore won it apparently for just one slim book of poems published in his own English translation under the non-translated title Gitanjali (A Handful of Offerings of Songs; 1912).
In this lecture, I examine this highly exceptional occurrence in the history of literary translation with particular focus on the following issues.
(a) Self-translations: their motives, nature and efficacy, especially with reference to bilingualism. Gitanjali remains probably the only work of self-translation to be awarded the Nobel Prize.
(b) Self-translation, Re-writing, and Editing. What are the special virtues and limitations of self-translators? How is the picture altered when some (invisible) editing takes place to ‘improve’ the translation, as for example by W. B. Yeats in the present case?
(c) Translation and Paratexts. D translations including especially self-translations require a paratext such as an explicatory and enthusiastic ‘Introduction’ to be able to make any impact? What is the role of such an ‘Introduction’ (such as the one by Yeats in the present case)?
(d) Self-Translations and Other Translations. How do self-translations compare with translations by others, including native speakers of the TL, as in this case by William Radice (2011)?
In conclusion, as the proof of the pudding, I shall compare three versions of the same poem from Gitanjali, the first a self-translation by Tagore, the second this translation as silently edited by Yeats, and the third a new translation by Radice.