About the Book:
This book documents the remarkable relationship between Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and Edward J. Thompson (1886-1946) through the letters they exchanged over almost 30 years. Based on a collection of letters, cablegrams and greeting cards, it provides new insights into the personalities of these two eminent individuals living and working in late colonial Bengal. Tagore and Thompson met as poets in 1913 and became friends intantly, but their relationship got strained soon after mainly due to personal failings.
Tagore won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 and the West feted him as a mystic poet from the East in line with their romantic stereotype about the Orient. Thompson disagreed with the West's representation of Tagore and sought to rectify it by writing two books on Tagore's life and work. He persisted in his criticism of both Tagore's English translations and his image in the West. Tagore was at first irked by these books but later admitted to the weakness of his translations. The letters between Tagore and Thompson are a window to those developments: of their instant intimate friendship, the stressful turn it took, and the reconciliation they reached. At a broader level, the book throws light on contemporary Indo-British cultural and political history.
A well-conceived and skillfully written biographical essay, this book will interest scholars of literature, culture, history, and South Asian studies as well as general readers. It will also be a welcome addition, and companion, to E.P. Thompson's book about Tagore and his father, Edward Thompson, entitled Alien Homage.
Note: Jacket Illustration: (above) Letter from Edward Thompson to P.C. Mahalanobis dated 12 December 1920, Bankura, Bengal. (below) Poem by Rabindranath Tagore to Edward Thompson, 1917. Copy of ms courtesy Rabindra-Bhavana archives, Santiniketan.
About the Author:
Uma Das Gupta is Professor at the Social Sciences Division, Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta, India.
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