Books from Bengal

When one thinks of Bengal, the very first picture is of Guruji Rabindranath Tagore. An artist beyond par, he was perhaps one of those very few people who commanded respect all over the world for his mastery with words. Though prolific in English it was Bengali that had made Guruji a phenomenon. Many of his poetries were translations of his Bengali versions. While Tagore was one of those many authors who ruled an emerging India, the land of Bengal has given our nation some of the most popular authors of all times. Here are some of the recommended bestsellers from the land of Bengal.

Pather panchali by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay

Bandopadhyays remarkable masterpiece is acknowledged as one of the greatest Bengali novels ever written. This is a vivid, moving and authentic portrayal of the life of a Brahmin household seen through the eyes of the two young children of the family. In a very simple, yet powerful language, the author has woven an intricate web of human emotions, expressed through the eyes of two beautiful young children. The description of the life of Bengal in those days is near flawless. It is often said that poverty cannot be explained – it has to be experienced, and this book stands tall as a testimony to it. The translation, which faithfully reflects the changing moods of the original as well as its many variations of style, is the work of T.W. Clark and Tarapada Mukherji.

Choker Bali by Rabindranath Tagore

First published as a serial, a novel on love, family and sexuality in Bengal society, Chokher Bali has all the ingredients necessary to make a gripping drama – love and hate, loyalty and deceit, downfall and redemption. And it does not disappoint. Nearly every character starts off black or white, but in the end all that are left are shades of grey. There are times when the book tests the modern reader’s willingness to suspend disbelief, but they are neither frequent nor are they inconceivable in the period the book is set.

The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore

Set on a Bengali noble’s estate in 1908, this is both a love story and a novel of political awakening. The central character, Bimala, is torn between the duties owed to her husband, Nikhil, and the demands made on her by the radical leader, Sandip. Her attempts to resolve the irreconciliable pressures of the home and world reflect the conflict in India itself, and the tragic outcome foreshadows the unrest that accompanied Partition in 1947.
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