This work examines in detail the world of travelogues of a highly interesting culture-universe: the Bengali bhadralok. A travelogue is usually a crucial political/ aesthetic text. Its very fabric is structured in space and power - it creates, relates, compares and contrasts spaces and power. Bengalis Travelling to Europe in the colonial period felt compelled to produce such texts. An analysis of these works from a historian's angle provides crucial windows to the colonized mind striving for self definition.
Trailokyanath Mukherjee, Romesh Chandra Dutt, Krishnabhabini Das, Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore and other Travellers aimed to demystify the myth of Europe by establishing physical contact. Their depictions of the reality of; the colonial metropolis served as acts of self-assertion, dislocating England from its position of centrality.
Simonti Sen studies in detail the conflicted narratives of minds that aimed to reconcile a Western education with an incipient sense of national self. In doing so, she raises issues regarding national definition which are as relevant today as they were a century ago. This work would appeal to readers interested in the history of India and, in particular, of Bengal; it would also appeal to those involved in literature and cultural studies.
Simonti Sen teaches History in Bidhannagar College, Kolkata. She has written several articles on Bengali travel accounts and has edited Krishnabhabini Daser Englandey Banga Mahila (Calcutta: Stree, 1996), a new edition of Krishnabhabini Das's travelaccount.
This work is a study of travelogues describing the visits of Bengalis to Europe in the period 1970 to 1910. its aim is to explore and understand the themes and structures of these accounts. Nationalism was striving to generate a discursive space for itself, and travelogues of this genre provided one of the possible sites where such a space could be fashioned.
The work began as a doctoral dissertation submitted in 19956. In its present form, however, it incorporates not merely the original material but analyses and information acquired thereafter. Indeed, the study of travel writing has come to constitute a vast and ever-expanding field, employing the services of historians, anthropologists and literary theoreticians. My own project, while drawing on the insight of scholars of various disciplines, is at once more focused and more humble. I have no intension here of analyzing the philosophy and praxis of travel writing in general. My study is confined to understanding (in the light of both colonial and travelogue studies) how these Travellers sought to articulate their themes in writing.
This work has been rendered possible by the help and assistance of many. My supervisor, Professor Partha Chatterjee, has always been there for patient hearing despite his immensely busy schedule. From the conception of the work until the present I have been seeking his help for both academic and non-academic concerns. Professor Gautam Bhadra, as always, has been forthcoming with his insights and suggestions. A sympathetic and concerned teacher, Professor Bhadra eggs on young scholars towards greater scholarly intercourse. It was because of his interest that a section of my thesis was published in his journal Aitihasik (Historical). Professor Pradip Bose has been so generous as to let me go through his unpublished works while I was writing my dissertation. I should especially mention the late Amitava Ghosh (more popularly known as Siddhartha Ghosh) for giving me free access to his invaluable personal collection. Many of my rare source materials emerged from there. Siddharthada's sudden passing-passing-away has created a vacuum which cannot be replenished Professor Amalendu De has been Extremely helpful in drawing my attention to some unexplored materials. This study could not have been done without the assistance and cooperation of the library staff of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (Calcutta), Bangiya Sahitya Parishat, the National Library and Krishnagar Public Library.
After the completion of my thesis I was contemplating a new edition o Krishnabhabini Das's travel account with annotation and an introduction. The editor of Stree, Mandira Sen, and my friend Mousumi Bhaowmik, who was working with Stree at that time, had shown great interest and helped me realize my project. My search for material on Krishnabhabini would have been inordinately difficult but for the generous help of Abhijit Sen. He assisted me in locating valuable material which later proved to be of immense importance while reworking my thesis.
However, the whole idea of revising my work and bringing it to the world of publication was the result of constant cajoling, pestering and prodding by Bhaskar Mukherjee. Himself interested in travel literature, Bhaskar's criticisms and insights opened new angles and perspectives. The list of my friends who have helped at various stages and in various capacities is quite unending. Swapna Banerjee has been responsible for introducing me to many current Western academic trends. Siddhartha Chakraborty has shown great patience in going through this dry non-fictional work and even offered important suggestions. Partha Nag, Indranil Chakroborty, Ishani Dutta Gupta, Purnima Dutta and Probal Bagchi have always been there to comply with all my demands. My colleagues of Krishnagar Government College, Krityapriyo Ghosh and Sutapa Das Gupta, helped me keep up my spirits amidst all the drudgery and difficulty of college work.
Of course the work would not have seen the light of publication had it not been for the active interest shown by Priti Anand of Orient Longman. During her absence Nikhil Bhoopal has been forthcoming with his help. I sincerely feel that the criticisms and suggestions of my reviewer proved to be immensely useful in improving this work.
Last but not the least, the comforting and undemanding presence of my family members has always eased every difficulty.
I am thankful to everyone mentioned above. The only person who dos not feature in this list is my husband, Santanu Chacraverti. No one knows better than he how little could have been done without his patience, forbearance, help and advice. Ceremonious thanksgiving or public utterance of gratitude is in this case quite superfluous.
While writing this book I never ceased to; think about jethu, my paternal uncle, more a father to me, who would perhaps have been the happiest person to see my work in print. I dedicate this book to his memory.
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