A collection of essays focuses on venerable literary works.
Chaudhuri (War of Thrones, 2017) asserts in the preface that her goal in this book is to present some personal opinions on a few celebrated volumes. These texts include two by Shakespeare (Othello and Hamlet), one by Keats (Ode to a Nightingale), and one by the Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore (The Lost Jewels). Each one is examined with the help of writings by established scholars, including A.C. Bradley and T.S. Eliot. The author adds her own analysis to topics that include the question of Hamlet’s sanity and the reflection of the human experience in Keats’ poetry (in contrast to his esteem for nature). The works are treated tenderly; Chaudhuri clearly holds them all in high regard. As the author writes of Keats, “His poetry has rarely been equaled in descriptions of the beauties perceptible to the senses.” Such earnest praise shows that these oft-discussed volumes can still inspire strong emotions in modern readers. Additionally, the inclusion of Tagore among the more famous authors (at least to the average American reader) makes for a noteworthy juxtaposition. But some of Chaudhuri’s views can be confusing. The author compares Othello’s death to Iago’s life, saying that the Moor’s suicide is certainly tragic “but of, to live as Iago lives, devouring the dust and stinging—this is more appalling.” The phrasing is awkward and, while Chaudhuri’s assertion is eventually clear, such sentences may require rereading. This makes much of the book slow going. The author writes of Hamlet that “with the appearance of the Ghost a second time, the structure of the action emphasizes that the ‘command’ that made the climax of the exposition has failed to be performed.” The passage is nearly as wordy as the scene it is describing. Nevertheless, even readers familiar with these volumes can glean new, thought-provoking details. For instance, as Chaudhuri points out, readers do not really know how old Hamlet is. That such considerations can still attract attention helps to prove the author’s contention that these works are worthy of discussion.
This volume affectionately looks at famous texts, though some points remain muddled.