RABINDRANATH TAGORE: The Myriad-Minded Man by Krishna & Andrew Robinson Dutta

RABINDRANATH TAGORE: The Myriad-Minded Man

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A beautifully written life of India's once-famous Nobel laureate who is now largely unknown to Western readers. In the first half of the 20th century, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was widely known in the West as a mediator between Eastern and Western culture. His poems, plays, paintings, and music remain enormously influential in India, especially in Bengal. Dutta, a Calcutta-born teacher now living in England, and Robinson, literary editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement, assume that Western readers need a complete reintroduction to Tagore. The result is a leisurely, life-and-times biography written from a detached, objective point of view and full of useful explanatory detail. Dutta and Robinson balance the cultural, political, family, and religious influences on Tagore without settling on any one as predominant. Because Tagore participated in so many aspects of Indian politics and literary culture, and knew so many key figures not only in India but in the West, his biography serves as an introduction to basic features of modern Indian history and culture. Although usually deferential to his point of view, the authors are also sensitive to Tagore's contradictions. A beneficiary of British rule, he agonized over the plight of peasants on his family estates but never questioned the legitimacy of private ownership. He supported British rule until the national movement made it unfashionable. After embracing nationalism, he distanced himself, not only from violent extremists, but from political mainstreamers such as Gandhi. The book becomes livelier when the authors lose patience with Tagore, particularly over his hypocrisy in advocating rights for women that he never extended to the women of his own family. As many-sided as Tagore himself, this biography will introduce readers not only to one of the giants of 20th-century literature, but also to the encounter between European and South Asian culture under colonial rule.

Pub Date: Dec. 4th, 1995
ISBN: 1845118049
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: St. Martin's