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Chaturanga: A Novel

Chaturanga: A Novel
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Item Code: IDH631
Author: Rabindranath Tagore
Publisher: Sahitya Akademi, Delhi
Edition: 2005
ISBN: 8172014007
Pages: 91
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.5" X 5.5"

Translator's Note

The Bengali quatrain or payar, itself based on the primal rhythm of the Santal Drum, and the classical four part musical form were of inexhaustible interest to Tagore. Creator of the world's largest and most varied corpus of lieder and song cycles, he constructed many of his stories and novellas in four parts: exposition, development, variation and recapitulation. He was deeply attached to this form, its varying rhythms and speeds, and used it repeatedly not only in his early stories but in the most powerful novella of his early fifties, Chaturanga. He returned to it with renewed power in his seventies in malancha, Dui Bon and Char Adhyaya.

I believe it is the underlying musical form, more tersely phrased and constructed in chaturanga then perhaps in any of the of his early stories except Nashtanirh, that gives the book its rich texture, its many voices, its symbolic quality. And because musical form provides the frame without intruding as a formal design, and because it is always there, hidden, unseen, it gives the strangely agitated, stormy world of Chaturanga its still point, its privacy. Besides, Tagore's tour of Europe the year before the book was written and the first few months of the first Great War must have served to confirm old convictions and stimulate new affirmations which he wanted to express with the greatest rectitude on the principle of less it more.

Despite the hushed dialogue or more often the half spoken monologue, and the author's preoccupation with an intensely personal world, the novel spans almost half a century of life and thought in Bengal. Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, the original to m mind of the Uncle, and his campaigns, the Guru and the cross currents of personal religious movements at the turn of the country, the long struggle for the recognition of a widow's right to remarry and order her own destiny, the stormy figure of Vivekananda who lighted up the Indian sky and disturbed complavency, Nivedita and her account of the cave, Damini, unique to Bengal and nowhere else, and Sribilas who learnt to rid himself of self-pity: they certainly represent Bengal of the first half of Tagore's life. It was perhaps an inner compulsion to chronicle this half century that urged Tagore to surpass even himself and gave the novel its insinuating economy, its sweep, plasticity and power of image, its intensely contemporary yet timeless theme. In the centenary year of Tagore's birth I thought I should pay Chaturanga my homage with this feeble translation.

September 1961


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