Reviewing Tagore’s book cannot be done in the same format as the others. So, this will be done a little differently.
Book: The Home and the World (Translation of Ghare Baire)
Author: Rabindranath Tagore
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Genre: Autobiographical ‘Fiction’
In One Line: The story is about three people and their relationships with one another where each character represents a particular section of Bengal that existed during the early 1900s.
Background Behind The Story
Bengal got separated in 1905 and the original Bengali version of the story, ‘Ghare Baire’ was published in 1915. It got translated by Tagore’s nephew in 1919. This book got a lot of recognition in the West not only because of the translation but also because The subject is controversial wherein Tagore lashes out at the ideologies of nationalism that were prevalent then.
Tagore was one who felt that nationalism was turning into a terrorist movement by impressionable youths. This thought especially grew in his mind after Khudiram Bose killed two innocent British civilians. In fact, after this Tagore stopped participating in the nationalist movement. And his sentiments took the shape of this book seven years later.
The characters have layers to them. Nikhil is the passive husband but is deep with his thoughts. Sandip is a revolutionary preacher who is rather quite shallow in his thoughts. Bimala wants to be independent but is extremely gullible. Beyond these contrasts, lie even more. In some ways, Nikhil seems a little too good to be believable and Sandip’s acts makes one doubt whether he really was pro-country. Bimala, at the end of everything, seems to be a very ordinary woman who just wants too much. However, despite this layering, the characters seem very staid and predictable. They stay who they are and don’t undergo any changes.
The novel, can be said, to be almost allegorical in nature as well with Nikhil and Sandip representing two different sides that the nation was witnessing when the book was written. Nikhil is the enlightened one who is humanitarian in nature while Sandip is the radical whose thoughts borders on fanaticism. It is this latter group, that Tagore always felt, was promoting ‘bomb culture’. Bimala represents the group who often let go off their moral sensibilities. Her long standing infatuation with Sandip shows Tagore’s lack of hope about the future of the partitioned Bengal. It is Nikhil, who Tagore shows as the chance that Bengal’s people won’t die due to immoral politics and fanatical religious beliefs.
I will not comment on Tagore’s style. However, I have always felt that translations never do full justice to the original and this book gave me the same feeling. What Tagore wrote in Bengali, does not come out in the Queen’s language. Instead the read seems to be overly poetic and sometimes almost irritatingly lyrical with an excessive dose of idioms and phrases.
What the novel really explores is not human relationships of different kinds but a far deeper conflict. A conflict between freedom and bondage, materialism and denouncement of it, idealism and falsehood. It also shows how every ideology is connected with an inner thought.
In a way, it also touches upon the political scenario during the Swadesi movement and the people who were present at that time. Some parts of Sandip is very reminiscent to Gandhi! Wonder if Tagore did that on purpose. For sure, while writing the story, he failed to stay detached from what happening all around him. Maybe he did this on purpose so that the characters focused on portraying the good and the evil that India was witnessing then.
Even though a small part, the book has an autobiographical tinge to it as well. For all those parts when Nikhil over looks his sister-in-law’s calculative nature, sometimes even at the cost of making his wife Bimala angry; it seems to be similar to the relationship that Tagore had with his sister in law.
I have a problem with the editing. Innumerable grammar issues (pages :5, 10, 14, 35, 45, 47, 54, 93, 98, 137, 143 and some more). Now, who is to be blamed for such goof ups?
My Reaction When I Finally Closed The Book:
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