cover image Bengal Nights

Bengal Nights

Mircea Eliade. University of Chicago Press, $22.5 (184pp) ISBN 978-0-226-20418-5

Read together with Maitreyi Devi's It Does Not Die (see below) these two moving novels--one written in 1933, the other more than 40 years later in response to the first--by two world-renowned intellectuals retell the story of their real love affair from two widely divergent perspectives. Eliade (1907-1986), best known as a theologian ( The Sacred and the Profane ), tells his version of the romance with Devi in a thinly disguised autobiographical novel. The narrator, Alain, a young French engineer, gradually enters a mystical realm of artistic energy, eroticism and timelessness when he meets and falls in love with the daughter of a senior colleague with whom he is staying in Calcutta. Alain sees in Maitreyi (whose name Eliade uses in the novel) what the West has stereotypically seen in the East: a mysterious pool of spirituality, irrationality and sensuousness. And, similarly typical of such visions, the relationship is doomed from the start for the very reasons that it remains so compelling. (Apr . )