The volume is a collection of different genres of writings of Tagore. Unlike the previous two, neither does it have a close-knit structure, nor are the sections into which it is divided mutually exclusive. The materials presented here have been divided into four broad sections of varying lengths. The first section contains six prose works of Tagore. Among them, Letters to a Friend (1928) and Thoughts from, Rabindranath Tagore (1928 and former is a collection of letters written by Tagore to Andrews on various political and moral issues; the latter is an anthology of short pieces of meditative prose, thematically connected with Tagore's Bengali religious discourses collected in the Santiniketan lectures. The Religion of Man(1931), delivered as the Hibbert lectures at Oxford in 1930, is a comprehensive and powerful exposition of his understanding of the meaning and significance of religion in the cultural history of man. The remaining three works are not so well known, nonetheless they are of great interest to Tagore Scholars. Mahatmaji and the Depressed Humanity (1932) is an assortment of articles occasioned by Mahatmaji's fast in protest against the Puna pact. East and West (1935) published from Paris is an exchange of letters between Gilbert Murray and Tagore. And Man (19370 is an address at Andhra University.
The second section brings together a number of lectures and addresses delivered by Tagore at different places in India and abroad-some of them were delivered several times with occasional changes-in chronological order. The first essay,' Race conflict', was written in 1912 during his stay at Urbana when he was still an unknown figure in the West, and the last, 'Crisis in Civilization', was written and read a few months before his death in 1941. This selection thus presents a record of the continuous growth of Tagore's thoughts and ideas during the last thirty years of these writings were issued as pamphlets, as pamphlets, or had found place in anthologies. Most of them had remained imprisoned in journals and periodicals. This is the first attempt to collect them.
Apart from their literary merit, these essays are important in the study of modern Indian thought, since they are significant utterances by a man who more than anyone else among his contemporaries admirably represented his country during a turbulent period of its history. Thematically wide in range and varied in character, some of them are prophetic invasion. Some are poignant expressions of an agonized mind concerned with the welfare of mankind, and all of them, almost without exception, are profound in thought and elegant in expression.
The next section, also chronologically arranged, is a collection of occasional writings, namely, message, tributes, public statements, open letters, and so on. They present and even wider range of themes, both mundane and profound, and manifest Tagore's concern and curiosity about almost everything valuable in life. 'Tagore's enormous merit consists in this, 'Aldous Huxley once wrote, ' that he was at once a great idealist and a practical man of actions. 'His stature and success as a man of action may be debatable, but undoubtedly, what gives Tagore uniquencess among artists and thinkers is not only his deep concern and abiding interest in the political and social and economic life of the people, but also his direct involvement with works normally considered 'unpoetic'. Contrary to the popular image of a romantic and a mystic, he was deeply involved with the practical problems of education and rural construction in India, as well as with the problems of industrialization and organization all over the world. Anyone familiar with Tagore's concept of atma sakti (literally,' one's own strength) cannot fail to notice its resemblance with what the modern political thinkers call 'empowerment'. He thought of a different paradigm of development, preparing the individual to participate in the larger process of development instead of creating institutions without a meaningful relationship between individuals and the process of development. Writings belonging to these two sections are eloquent evidence of this aspect of his personality that was moulded by a philosophy of life-affirmation and humanism.
Equally significant and exciting is the last section, which is devoted to conversations and interviews. From 1912 onwards Tagore came into frequent tough with the finest minds of his time. During his extensive foreign tours that began three years later, he met several great individuals. They include poets and novelists, scientists and politicians, kings and diplomats, educationalists and scholars, religious leaders and philosophers, and performing artists. Unfortunately, very little is preserved of the conversation he had with them and the opinions he expressed on various themes and issues during these interviews. His associates, who accompanied him during his numerous travels in India and abroad, were too late in realizing their responsibility to posterity. Authentic records of only a few meetings are available and we have put them together in this section.
It will not be unfair to claim that the present volume includes almost all the scattered writings of Tagore in English. It is not unlikely that a few stray articles-Particularly the short prefaces and forewords that Tagore wrote to various books-might have escaped our notice or could not be procured by the time this manuscript was sent to the pres. But what we have not included, as a matter of policy, is Tagore's correspondence. This editorial decision needs an apology.
We are aware of the literary merit as well as the historical importance of the letters of Tagore. He, like his predecessor, the great Urdu poet Ghalib, was a master of epistolary prose. He had written several thousand letters. More than a dozen volumes of his Bengali letters have been published so far and the rest, so far uncollected, will fill as many volumes. All these letters are not personal in nature; in fact, only a small part of them is really 'private' and intimate. Some of them, such as Letter from Russia, are serious socio-political discourses in epistolary form. The corpus of Tagore's letters in English is not as copious and varied as it is in Bengali. But it is large enough, and also of great importance, being a record of the correspondence with some of the greatest figures of this century, which includes Gandhi and Rolland.
Barring The Imperfect Encounter, edited by Mary Lago, which covers the Tagore-Rothenstein correspondence, is available yet. Our decision to exclude the letters has not been prompted by the absence of scholarly editions but by the unavailability of one of the participants, the letters of the other are likely to be denuded of their contexts. They would appear like, to use a Tagorean simile, a bird bereft of one wing. This is, however, not to deny the value of the available material, howsoever truncated. We want them to be preserved with care and love. But this volume, like the golden boat in a popular Tagore poem, overfull with harvest, does not have any more room to accommodate them. The letters deserve a separate volume.
About the Book
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) become an international figure when his Gitanjali, an anthology of religious lyrics, originally written in Bengali and translated into English by the poet himself, was warded the Nobel Prize for literature- the first ever to an Asian-in 1913. since then he came to be known not only as a great writer but also as the most able spokesman of modern India. Till today he is the most widely read Indian writer in India and abroad. Although his reputation outside the Bengali-speaking area rests largely if not entirely, on his English writings no attempt has been ever made to put them together. Sahitya Akademi has decided to bring out a complete collection of Tagore's writings in English in three volumes. The corpus of Tagore's English writings is fairly large and diverse. In addition to translations of his own works, his original writings in English, mostly essays, also form a substantial part of his total works. The present volume includes all poetic works translated by Tagore including The Child, the only major poem he wrote in English. These works, distinguished by profundity of thought and beauty of expression, made a great impact on readers belonging to different countries and cultures. Their appeal is still fresh and abiding. For the first time The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore are presented with detailed annotations and information about the historical context to which they belong.
About the Author
Sisir Kumar Das is the Tagore Professor at the University of Delhi where he teaches Bengali and Comparative Literature. He received the Nehru Prize of the Federal Republic of Germany for his monograph Western Sailors: Eastern Seas (1969), an essay on the German response to Indian culture, and the Tagore Memorial Prize of the West Bengal Government twice for his works The Shadow of the Cross-Hinduism and Christianity in a Colonial Situation (1974) and The Artist in Chains, The Life of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (1984). A poet, playwright and critic, he has also translated Aristotle's Poetics and several Greek plays into Bengali. His Bengali publications include Gadya Padyer Dwanda (Essays, 1984), Hayto Daroja Ache (verse, 1986), Abalupta Chaturtha Charan (verse, 1986), Socrates-er Jabanbandi (play, 1989) and Bajpakhir Sange Kichuksan (verse, 1992). He is the author of a History of Indian Literature (1800-1910): Western Impact: Indian Response, published by the Sahitya Akademi.
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