Priyadarshini is the lucky one who receives the award. Born on the day of the India-China ceasefire in 1962, Mukherjee, presently, 52, has been conferred China’s highest literary prize — the Special Book Award — for his many books and works of translation, specially, for translating the poetry of Mao Tse-Tung into Bengali, which was published in the year 2012.
It is not a recent interest of Mukherjee. His passion had developed over the time. Mukherjee had a way with languages even as a young lad growing up on campus at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. His father, who taught at IIT, spoke several languages — French, German, Chinese and Russian among others — and Mukherjee picked up smatterings. As per sources, His CV on the JNU website lists over a dozen languages he knows well enough to read and write in. Mukherjee completed grade 12 at Shantiniketan and moved to JNU for higher studies.
Way back when Mukherjee joined JNU, he noticed his increasing interest in Chinese. This was during 1978-79, for which he says during that time China was not a big economic power. It was just the beginning of the reform that made it one. Then he talks about the liking and preference for languages. The present generation, according to him, straightaway gets into an MNC or a private company after doing B.A. By that time no one learns language properly.
The winner has done lots of translations from Chinese to other language and to Chinese as well. Many of his contemporary Chinese poems were translated from Chinese to Hindi. He covered various languages like Chinese and Spanish which he did individually and sometimes by collaborating with other translators.
Splendid work he performed with Mao-
For his translation of Mao — he’s translated all the poems – he had to “hunt down books all over China and compiled the anthology from about 15 books.
He says he had collected all the material earlier but sat down for translation seriously in the year 2009. The Chinese have overall appreciated his work and his work in categorizing. The 95 poems – Mukherjee had to “weed out” the propaganda slogans – have been classified into sections such as military campaign, anti-soviet revisionism, romantic (Mao has written a few poems for his wife) and ones written in collaboration with others. Mao was translated – that too from English – for purposes of propaganda in Bengal earlier. He translated some of the Rabindrasangeet into Chinese and in a way that the songs can be sung