• Feng Tang's translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s “Stray Birds” was removed from bookstores.

Feng Tang's translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s “Stray Birds” was removed from bookstores. (Photo : Wikimedia)

Chinese poet Feng Tang has responded to his critics after his translation of Rabindranath Tagore's poetry collection "Stray Birds" was removed from bookstores over his use of "vulgar" language by publishing his letters to the late Indian poet in Chinese and English, as reported by the Global Times.

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While the poetry collection has been translated in China quite a few times, it was Feng's translation that was published last June that attracted considerable controversy due to what some consider to be "vulgar" language.

Zhejiang Literature Art Publishing House, the book's publisher, later pulled Feng's translation from the shelves of bookstores.

The English version of Feng's letters was published in The Guardian in mid-January, while the Chinese version was published recently in the Chinese edition of GQ magazine.

In Feng's letters, he covers how he discovered Tagore when he was still a child, as well as his procedure when translating the Indian poet's collection. He also included his response to criticism that his translation of the work was too "vulgar."

The gist of Feng's sentiments is that everyone should have the freedom to have their own interpretation of a work. He, as the translator, should have the freedom to use language as he sees fit.

Critics doubted Feng's translation fully understood Tagore's poetry and have pointed out that he injected "racy" language into some of the poems.

"I don't want to argue whether these three phrases are racy. What I want to preserve is my freedom to use and even create my own system of Chinese language," read Feng's letter.

"But, dawn will break, even when all roosters are killed," Feng wrote at the latter part of his letter, believing that history will eventually side with him.

Aside from his poetry, Feng, a Beijing-born Chinese writer, is best known for his novels "Everything Grows" and "Beijing Beijing" and essay collections like "Pig and Butterfly."

Feng's use of language has attracted controversy before. With a style that is characterized as informal with the use of salacious language from other dialects, many critics have condemned his style as too obscene.

However, Feng's supporters claim that his style reflect the real world.

Overall, pulling Feng's translation from shelves seems to have backfired, as his letters have attracted plenty of attention, especially from netizens that have come to the writer's defense calling for respect for his freedom of expression.