Goethe’s “Welt” poet in Bengal: The Influence of World Literature on Jibanananda Das and other Bengali Poets of the 1930s-40s

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Firoze Basu


This study aims to establish a link between the concept of “Weltliteratur” or World Literature, in terms of the free movement of literary themes and ideas between nations in original form or translation, and the Bengali poets of the thirties and forties who actively translated French and German poets. It identifies Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's (1749-1832) concept of World Literature as a vehicle for the Kallol Jug poets. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe introduced the concept of “Weltliteratur” in a few of his essays in the first half of the nineteenth century to describe the international circulation and reception of literary works in Europe, including works of non-Western origin. My emphasis will be on Jibanananda Das (1899-1954) arguably the most celebrated poet in Bengali literature who was well versed in the contemporary Western Canons of Poetry. Jibanananda’s defamiliarization of the rural Bengal Landscape, his use of exotic foreign images owe a debt to contemporary European poets. Interestingly, Jibanananda had reviewed an English translation of German author Thomas Mann’s novel “Dr Faustus’ for a Bengali magazine “Chaturanga”. In the Bengali review he states that despite prevalent misconceptions (some critics considering the novel to be superior to the original Faust epic by Goethe) Goethe’s Faust was the first text to capture the hope, despair and crisis in the modern world and articulate it in such a manner that “true” literature of the age was created in its new light. In Jibanananda’s estimation, Thomas Mann deserves credit for treating the Faust legend in a unique and creative way.


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Firoze Basu. “Goethe’s ‘Welt’ Poet in Bengal: The Influence of World Literature on Jibanananda Das and Other Bengali Poets of the 1930s-40s”. The Creative Launcher, vol. 6, no. 3, Aug. 2021, pp. 1-8, doi:10.53032/TCL.2021.6.3.01.


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