But is he [Tagore] remembered just as a national icon, with only fading remnants of his fame in the public mind and steadily fading knowledge of his place in history? The Bengali-speaking community in India and elsewhere may like to believe that this is not true. But those who cannot access his works in Bengali – given the fact that only a small fraction of his works have been translated into English, and still less into Indian languages – may think otherwise. It seems worthwhile, therefore, to attempt a brief interpretative account of Tagore’s life and work. I think that there are many aspects of Tagore’s life which remain unexamined. These are ‘Frequently Unasked Questions’ about him. An inventory of them would show how they converge in particular on one aspect – the evolution of his intellectual life. This theme is addressed in the first chapter of this book and foregrounded in the narrative as a whole. (P. 2)
In pursuing that theme my method has been to draw from Tagore's own statements about the ideas and experiences which drove his creative and intellectual life. Tagore himself provides us the sources: in his autobiography, in his reminiscences and occasional self-analysis, and in over twenty-five hundred letters which have been archived. Read with his published literary works, these sources throw light on what the poet called his 'inner life'. I have deliberately avoided citing learned literary critics – the vast amount they have produced takes us to a different terrain altogether and I have preferred to depend upon Tagore's own testimonies and self-reflective observations. As such, I have depended on Tagore's own translations of his writings and, of course, what he wrote in English, given that few translations do justice to Tagore as a poet. The problem is not so great as far as prose works, particularly essays, are concerned. As regards his poetic works, even Tagore's own translations have been questioned on stylistic grounds; but translations by the original author are presumably more dependable, so far as authorial intention is concerned. Since there are not many translations by Tagore himself out of his vast corpus of writings, occasionally I have had to make do with renderings by others, or myself. To my mind that is acceptable so far as his prose works, particularly his essays, are concerned, but not his poetry. Moreover, to those without access to the original language of an author the mere description of the beauty of his or her writings – which abound in some literary biographies – makes little sense. I have, therefore, tried to avoid such long descriptions and the customary superlatives. I am deeply conscious of the fact that only fragments of all his published writings and only an impression of the range and quality of Tagore's writings can be conveyed in a biography of this kind. Finally, I have also avoided elaborating upon the details of day-to-day life which appear to be irrelevant to his inner life. (Pp. 2-3.)
As regards his poetic works, even Tagore’s own translations have been questioned on stylistic grounds; but translations by the original author are presumably more dependable, so far as authorial intention is concerned.
Moreover, to those without access to the original language of an author the mere description of the beauty of his or her writings – which abound in some literary biographies – makes little sense.
Poetry, admired by Jones and the like, could be produced by people relatively uncivilized. But ‘a degree of culture is needed’, Mill said, to produce works of history and in this the Hindus failed. ‘It is allowed on all hands that no historical composition existed in the literature of the Hindus; they had not reached that point of intellectual maturity at which the value of a record of the past for the guidance of the future begins to be understood.’ (Bhattacharya, Talking Back, p. 16.)
The sordid details of that degradation by a retrograde society and the consequent price to be paid in the form of high dowry need not detain us. Nor should we go into the question of how suitable the matches were or whether the daughters did have a happy married life. (P. 86)
In this day and age of globalization, perhaps the Tagorean dilemma needs to be studied within a broader discourse on the possibilities and limits of cross-cultural communication in the literary idiom.
In the novel Yogayog Tagore broke away from the tradition of romantic novel and the mealy-mouthed treatment of gender relationships in Bengali literature since the late nineteenth century. (Pp. 132-33)
It was a sensation because it was perceived as Tagore’s response to the challenge of a ‘modernism’ which had pretensions to opening a post-Tagorean era. ...Superbly crafted, Sesher Kabita is a good read, but it is not a great novel. For an author to produce such a work at the age of sixty-seven was an achievement. (Pp. 167-68)
‘Kalo Ghora’ is an obscure poem, not easy to read, nor widely read. But probably it is one of the rare writings which hold the key to that unrest in Tagore’s mind which will probably ever remain tantalizing, unknowable.
The views and opinions expressed in the book are the author’s own and the facts as reported by her [sic] which have been verified to the extent possible [sic], and the publishers are not in any way liable for the same.