By Dr. R. Balashankar
The Essential Tagore, Edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty, Visva-Bharti (Orient BlackSwan), Pp 761 (HB), Rs 1500
Rabindranath does not cease to fascinate. Any reader of modern Indian literature must have read, at least the translations of Tagore, to be counted as a good student. And Tagore was a prolific writer. He wrote poems, songs, short stories, essays, travelogues, novels and plays.
Marking the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore, the Harvard University Press has brought out a select collection of his works in The Essential Tagore edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty. The South Asia edition has been brought out by Visva-Bharti. This, according to the publishers, is the largest single volume of Tagore’s works available in English. Translations to this edition have been contributed by Tagore specialists and writers of international repute. Amitava Ghosh, Amit Chaudhuri, Nandini Guha, Somdatta Mandal are among the names. Radha Chakravarty had translated several of Tagore’s major works into English.
In his Foreword Amit Chaudhuri finds Tagore closer to Josef Beuys (than to Goethe), “as someone who wants not only to address or to influence the world around him, but to rearrange and reorder it — creatively, radically, sometimes physically. As a consequence, Tagore was interested not only in literature but in book design, apparel, and the decorative and cultural aspects of our drawing room.” Amit Chaudhuri’s excellent Forward sets the tone for reading of the book. The following exhaustive introduction places Tagore’s major works with his life story. This helps to connect.
There are selections from ten genres of Tagore’s work — autobiography, letters, prose, poems, songs, plays, stories, novels, humour and travel writing. There is a chronological account of Tagore’s life and suggestions for further reading, adding value to the volume. Interspersed are some rare photographs of Tagore, his paintings and pages in his handwritings.
Radha Chakravarty is Associate Professor of English at Gargi College, University of Delhi and Fakrul Alam is a professor of English at the Dhaka University. It is a book one must have on the bookshelf, for repeated reading pleasure.
(Visva-Bharti, 6, Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Road, Kolkata 700 017. Marketed by Orient BlackSwan)