Much has been said and documented about the multifaceted genius of Rabindranath Tagore. Radical Rabindranath is a post-colonial reading that focuses on areas that have been marginalised because of the more dominant and compelling desire in the West to establish Tagore as a transcendent visionary and poet-philosopher.
The volume breaks new ground as it critiques Tagore’s non-conformism, radical outlook and occasional ambivalence as seen in his novels and short stories. In its re-readings of his works, it meticulously analyses issues such as sexual desire, repression, and jealousy on the one hand, and nation, politics, family and gender on the other. It also shows how, amidst changing social structures, his women protagonists are motivated by promptings of self-discovery and self-realisation, as well as a compulsive need to recreate their identities.
The book includes readings from selected film versions of Tagore’s fiction. These trace the deviations from the original texts to highlight how pre- and post-independence Indian/Bengali film-makers have appropriated Tagore’s literary texts by emphasising gender positions, the politics of the sexualised body and body images.
It also provides details of Tagore’s early years of growing up, his formative influences and also throws light on his intellectual combats with contemporaries like Chandranath Basu and Dijendralal Roy. In an interesting detour, the authors bring forth his relationships with women like Kadambari Devi, Ranu Mukherjee and Victoria Ocampo—encounters that allow a glimpse into a mind that despite being progressive and fearless, was not devoid of contradictions.
For students and scholars of comparative literature, and those with a keen interest in Tagore, the man, the poet, and ‘the radical’—an indispensable read, both at home and in the world.
Sanjukta Dasgupta is Professor and Former Head, Department of English and Former Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Calcutta.
Sudeshna Chakravarti is Professor, Department of English, University of Calcutta.
Introduction: Reading Rabindranath Tagore
Ch 1 Nurture, Culture: ‘My World Will Burn its Hundred Lamps’: Highlights from a Magnificent Life
Ch 2 Rabindranath and Some Prominent Contemporaries: Patriarchy and Society
Ch 3 The Lighted Lamp: Radical Definitions of Female Empowerment
Ch 4 Evolving Women: Tagore’s Short Stories as Resistance Literature
Ch 5 Nation, Politics and Gender in Colonial India: Ghare Baire, Char Adhyay and Gora
Ch 6 Gender Politics and Familial Relations: Chokher Bali, Naukadubi, Jogajog, Shesher Kabita
Ch 7 Tagore’s Narratives as Films: The Early Period (1932–1960)
Ch 8 From Fiction to Film: Reading Tagore Texts as Visual Narratives (1960 to the Present)
Ch 9 Conclusion: Tagore in Our Times
‘ ... If ever there was a radical in [Tagore’s] time that was he. His fiction and his polemical essays are proof of his radical ideas and actions in the fields of education, nationalism and women’s lives. This book should find a serious place in a re-reading of his fiction and in a discussion of the films made from his fiction.’
Uma Dasgupta, Historian and biographer of Rabindranath Tagore
‘ … [The authors] argue for an increasingly radical, but also ambivalent, Tagore who sometimes endorsed the writing of nation and gender in terms of Mother India but whose critique of nationalism and of often patriarchal domestic relationships went against the dominant tide. …. [This book is] an important reappraisal of Rabindranath Tagore’s fiction and the films that remade them.’
Mary Ellis Gibson, Elisabeth Rosenthal Excellence Professor, Department of English and the Program in Women’s and Gender Studies, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
‘What many translation theoreticians call translation as manipulation can be seen as best illustrated in this book in those texts that discuss inter-semiotic translation of Tagore’s stories into films. Besides, understanding the ever-experimenting genius at work has been facilitated in Radical Rabindranath because the book discusses in detail the non-conformist Rabindranath. The many Tagores in one has been best explored by the authors here.’
Udaya Narayan Singh, Professor, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan