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Rabindranath Tagore on Literature (Translation of Tagore's Essays on the Aesthetics of Literature)

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Item Code: NAR886
Author: Mohit K. Ray and Rama Kundu
Publisher: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9788126920396
Pages: 284
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 460 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

The present volume comprises complete translations of two important collections of Tagore's essays on literature: Sahityer Pathe and Siihityer Svaritp. Tagore's literary essays, however, are certainly not confined to the essays included in these two collections. He has innumerable literary essays written on different occasions in different periods of his long literal), career, and a careful survey of all the critical writings of Tagore can show the graph of Tagore's gradual development as a critical theorist. This is quite natural, because opinion, unlike dogma, has a growth, and, since these two books belong to the final phase of his career (Sahityer Pathe was published in 1936 and Sahityer Svariip was posthumously published in 1943), they may be regarded as the final observations of Tagore on literature and literary criticism. Tagore was intimately acquainted with both the Western critical ideas and the Indian aesthetic tradition. One can discover an interesting affinity between Tagore and Coleridge in respect of their views about the nature of poetry. There are interesting affinities, parallels, resonances and reverberations between Tagore's critical observations and some critical observations of Arnold, Eliot, Woolf, Bakhtin and the New Critics as well. However, a close scrutiny would reveal that the Western views are confined mainly to surface-level similarities, and that Tagore's ideas about literature have their roots deep in the Indian poetics and particularly in the philosophy of the Upanishad, in the belief that the world is created out of joy. The book will fulfill a long-standing need of the Tagore scholars who cannot read Tagore in the original, but who are interested, nevertheless, in Tagore's views on literature and literary criticism. It is expected to give a succinct idea of Tagore's aesthetics and his dominant position as a literary critic.

About the Author

Dr Mohit K. Ray (1940-), D.Litt (honoris causa) is one of the senior most Professors in India. He has six books and a large number of research papers published in scholarly journals in India and abroad. Dr. Ray was nominated for the prestigious title Man of the Year 2002 by American Biographical Institute, Inc. North Carolina; and awarded the 'International Man of the Year 2003' title by International Biographical Centre, Cambridge. Professor Ray has attended and chaired sessions as an invited participant in many international conferences, seminars, and colloquia held in different parts of the globe-England, France, Portugal, Austria, Finland, Estonia, America, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Turkey, Italy, etc. Dr. Ray has edited several anthologies of critical studies, and presently edits The Atlantic Critical Review, an international quarterly of global circulation. He is also working as Chief Editor of Atlantic Publishers & Distributors (P) Ltd. New Delhi.

Dr Rama Kundu, Emeritus Fellow (UGC), and former Professor of English, Department of English, Burdwan University, West Bengal, India, since 1976, is the author of twelve books: Vision and Design in Hardys Fiction (1984); Wrestling With God: Studies in English Devotional Poetry (1996); Anita Desai's Fire on the Mountain (2005); New Perspectives on British Authors: From William Shakespeare to Graham Greene (2006); E.M. Forster 's A Passage to India (2007); Intertext: A Study of the Dialogue Between Texts (2008); Emerging Territories: A Study in New Literatures in English (2009); The Unfamiliar Hardy: A New Look (2010); Rabindranath Tagore's Gora (2008), and Rabindranath Tagore's Jivansmrti as fivansmrti: The Birth of a Poet's Soul (both translated jointly with Mohit K. Ray), Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, New Delhi (2010); Anandamath StImpraddikta (in Bengali on Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay (1987); and Manobij (collection of personal essays in Bengali), Renaissance Publishers, Kolkata (2013).


Tagore's views on the nature, function, pleasure and various other aspects of literature are scattered throughout the entire gamut of his writings. Even in his poetry one often comes across flashes of his fine perception of some very important aspects of poetry. For example, when he says, "kabi taba manobhami reinter janamsthan ayodhyar ceye satyajeno" [Oh Poet, please remember that your mind is truer, more real, than the reality of Ayodhya, the place of birth of Ramachandra] he is actually referring to the truth value of poetry and its relation to the authenticity of the poet's feelings. Or when the `poet' in the poem, "PuraskAr", describes to the king how he writes poetry; Tagore, through the voice of the persona, puts forward his own views. The poet says Antar hate ahari vacan/ Anandalok kari biracan/ Gitarasadhara kari can/Samsardhalijale. [Let me collect words from my heart and create a world of joy. Let me soften the dusty world with the showers of music.

The statement, when analysed, reveals that (i) a poem is a verbal construct with the words welling up spontaneously from within; (ii) a poem has musicality about it and it gives the same kind of pleasure that we get from music; (iii) it creates a world full of aesthetic pleasure in midst of the dusty world. Sometimes he would define a poem as "chandobaddhagranthagit...kabita kalpanalata" [a poem is an imaginative construct informed by music and rhythm].

A close scrutiny of such observations, particularly in the literary essays, gives us an idea of the major issues that seriously concern Tagore. These are: man's urge for creation and the reasons thereof, the nature of the creation, search for beauty and truth, nature of the aesthetic pleasure derived from the experience of literature and the contributions of meter, music and rhythm to it. It is seen, then, that Tagore was intimately acquainted with both the Western critical ideas and the Indian aesthetic tradition. It is further seen that Tagore's ideas about poetry have their roots deep in the Indian poetics and particularly in the philosophy of the Upanishad, in the belief that the world is created out of joy, while the Western views are confined to surface-level similarities. It can also be seen then that there is an interesting affinity between Tagore and Coleridge in respect of their views about the nature of poetry. It can also be seen, nevertheless, that there are interesting affinities, parallels, resonances and reverberations between Tagore's critical observations and some critical observations of Arnold, Eliot, Woolf, Bakhtin and the New Critics.

The philosophical foundation of the aesthetics of Tagore lies in the Upanishad utterance that all the objects of the world are created out of joy. Anandadheva khalvimani bhutatti jelyante. Tagore refers to the Scripture that says that God who was one wanted to be many: Ekoham bahusyam. [I am one: I shall be many], and the joy of God materialized and took concrete shapes in the creations: Anandaritpamamrtam yadbhibhati [the manifestation of eternal joy]. Tagore says: "The one that dwells within me also longs to realize itself amongst many" (RR 14: 352). This longing of man is fulfilled through his creation. Tagore subscribes to the Indian philosophy of spirituality that guides the Indian artists in general, and, according to which man can realize his kinship with all the members of the universe through his creation. He realizes everybody in himself and at the same time realizes himself in everybody. That is why, while giving expression to his personal feelings, the artist poetically evokes them, transcends his immediate motivation, gives it a universal dimension and transforms "his own personal world of feelings-pleasant and unpleasant - into an intimate literary world which belonged to all men" (RR 14: 366).

After all, Tagore points out that the idea of man's "longing to get merged or united with the universe" (RR 14: 367) is embedded in the word seihitya (literature) which, etymologically, is derived from the word sahita which means 'union'. Thus "from the very sahita (union) sahitya (literature) is born" (RR 14: 369).

Tagore believes that the world is an organic whole where every part is inextricably and organically related to every other part. But the "wholeness of creation is fragmented in man" (RR 14: 303). Incidentally, in his poem "Switzerland", Arnold deplores that men who were once parts of a single continent are now isolated islands,

separated by the vast expanse of the fathomless ocean. But still they long for a union and always try to unite. In his essay on Kalidasa's Meghadidam, Tagore uses the idea in a sublimated form. In another essay, "The Message of Forest", Tagore suggests that at one time man was part of nature. But down the line somewhere, sometime man stepped out of nature and asserted his independent identity. That was the beginning of the process of fragmentation, In all his writings Tagore, an Advaitin, like Coleridge, a Unitarian, believed in oneness, omne ens unum, all in one. Here Tagore's point is that man's urge for creation is actually fuelled by this desire for oneness, the longing for the seamless totality of creation where the idea of "one and the many" merges in the idea of "all in one". The urge for creation which is innate and perennial leads to creation of beauty which, in its turn, leads to aesthetic pleasure. Beyond "the last syllable of recorded time" man will continue to sing. His song, Tagore says, "will resonate in tune with the sea, the forest, the luminous lyre of the sky,----anandam samprayantyahisambis'anti-everything is progressing in the direction of complete joy, not stumbling along in the direction of death in harness, on the dust of the road, in sheer exhaustion" (RR 14: 305).

In the essay, "Man" (EWT 5: 233-246), Tagore points out that man surpasses the animal in his aspiration for what is neither evident in the material world nor is urgently necessary for his physical survival. Man realizes that beyond his individual self there lies the universal self of which he is an integral part. He is "one in spirit with the universal Man" (EWT 5: 233). In his efforts to answer the question, "Who am IT', in his search for identity he becomes conscious that he "hides a mystery of depth within himself, and that he will finally know himself only when the veils of mystery have been pierced" (EWT 5: 236). This reminds one of the famous statements Coleridge made in connection with his definition of primary imagination: "The living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM" (Biographia Literaria Chapter 13).

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