Cover: The Essential Tagore, from Harvard University PressCover: The Essential Tagore in PAPERBACK

The Essential Tagore

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$30.00 • £26.95 • €27.95

ISBN 9780674417045

Publication Date: 11/24/2014


864 pages

6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches

12 halftones

Belknap Press

Not for sale in Indian subcontinent

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There have been a number of attempts, in the century since Yeats made [the] request, to give the English reader a fuller and more accurate sense of Rabindranath Tagore—through new translations, anthologies of his work, critical studies, and biographies. But The Essential Tagore, published to coincide with the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of Tagore’s birth, is the most substantial one yet.—Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker

It is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poet, playwright, novelist, composer, choreographer, educator and philosopher. So I propose as book of the year the splendid new anthology The Essential Tagore, edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty, which contains an unparalleled selection of poems, plays, stories, letters and more, mostly in excellent up-to-date translations. Initially known in the West as a mystical poet, Tagore was among India’s most important social critics and thinkers; his depiction of the limits of women’s lives is especially acute.—Martha Nussbaum, New Statesman

Tagore is one of the greatest literary figures of our time, who commands universal admiration from native readers of Bengali, but the excellence of whose work is difficult to preserve in translation. In rising to this challenge, the editors and translators of The Essential Tagore have done a splendid job of producing a beautiful volume of selections from Tagore’s vast body of writings. The book is also powerfully strengthened by an enjoyable and remarkably far-reaching foreword by Amit Chaudhuri.—Amartya Sen

[A] treasure trove… Imagine the task that was before the editors of The Essential Tagore. They have done a wonderful job, it is almost all gold. Here you can find some of the best of Tagore’s Chekhovian stories, as well as his stunningly various poems (many revitalised by Fakrul Alam’s translations), plus vivid extracts from the great novels, essays, letters, and travel writing.—Barry Hill, The Australian

[While T. S.] Eliot is a major poet for a single era of one literary tradition, Tagore is the most important poet of all eras for an entire culture. It can be said without doubt that Tagore should be compared to the preeminent poets of all cultures: Greece’s Homer, Italy’s Virgil and Dante, Germany’s Goethe, England’s Shakespeare, and—though he is a novelist—Russia’s Tolstoy… The Essential Tagore is a publication for readers all over the world, for all times.—Mohit Ul-Alam, Kali O Kalam

There have also been a number of anthologies of Tagore’s works translated into English over the years… As of this year, a new anthology of Tagore’s works in English edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty dwarfs all previous efforts… Because knowledge of Tagore has been so limited for so long, it’s especially welcome to see The Essential Tagore. The anthology contains many fresh translations of Tagore’s works, including some excellent contributions by Fakrul Alam himself, and I hope its availability will help to broaden perceptions about Tagore’s writing.—Amardeep Singh, Open Letters Monthly

As the generously weighty and elegantly produced Essential Tagore from Harvard testifies, Tagore wrote in many diverse modes, and quite distinct aspects of his genius often come into play.—Seamus Perry, The Times Literary Supplement

This new anthology, edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty, is so welcome, because it starts the process of freeing Tagore for a contemporary audience. The first thing that strikes you about The Essential Tagore is the diversity of its subject’s talents: In a career that stretched over seventy-three years (he finished his first poem when he was seven, and was composing a story on his deathbed), Tagore wrote novels, plays, literary criticism, political essays on the iniquities of the British Raj, and descriptions of his travels in Persia and Japan. Yet it is to the poems that one turns immediately. The range is dizzying—Tagore composed devotional, patriotic, erotic, and nature verse—and is tackled here by a phalanx of gifted translators, including [Amit] Chaudhuri… [The Essential Tagore] reintroduces a great writer to the world. The most luminous discovery in this anthology is not any particular poem or essay but the cumulative evocation of the poet’s personality… The experience of living in today’s India—a country that is agrarian, industrializing, and postindustrial, all at once—still forces a multiplicity of viewpoints on the individual, and Tagore must have some claim to being the prototypical modern Indian.—Aravind Adiga, Bookforum

Awards & Accolades

  • A New Statesman Book of the Year, 2011

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