LAHORE: Taufiq Rafat Foundation, in association with the International Centre for Pakistani Writing in English, Kinnaird College for Women University and the Lahore Arts Council, on Thursday launched a collection of Bulleh Shah’s poems, translated into English by Taufiq Rafat.
Addressing the event, Mushtaq Soofi, Punjabi poet and a friend of Rafat’s, said: “The personalities and times of Bulleh Shah and Taufiq Rafat are different. The common ground between the two is their love for the mother land and its people. Rafat’s [English] poetry is about this land. He has painted a true picture of the life of ordinary individuals.”
He said that translations were an important aspect of literature. “The structure of language is universal. The human brain thinks alike regardless of the medium of expression. At times, the nuance and layers of meanings are lost [in translation] but the idea remains the same. Rafat has done a tremendous job,” he said.
Najam Sethi said that Rafat was a master translator. “He would often show me his translations. The flawlessness of the translation sometimes left me speechless. The simplicity and power of his writing rang out,” he said. Sethi said that he had once shared his experience of imprisonment with Rafat.
“When compiling a collection of his poems, I came across a poem in seven sections titled Isolation that was based on my seven months in solitary confinement. The poem captured the experience beautifully,” he said.
Poet Ather Tahir said that translation was an arduous task. “Rafat mentions the momentous task in the translator’s note. He talks about the difficulty of capturing the language, structure, symbolism and culture across languages. These are not really transliterations, but rather Rafat’s renditions of Bulleh Shah’s poetry. Rafat has created something new here,” he said.
Playwright Sarmad Sehbai read out the original poems by Bulleh Shah at the event. The translations were read out by other speakers on the panel.
The book has been published by the Oxford University Press.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2015.