cover image Rabindranath Tagore: An Anthology

Rabindranath Tagore: An Anthology

Rabindranath Tagore. St. Martin's Press, $30 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-312-16973-2

The remarkably versatile Bengali Rabindranath Tagore wrote poetry, short stories, novels, memoirs, essays and plays; he traveled extensively, painted, counseled politicians, lectured Einstein on the necessity of humanism in science and founded a college outside his native Calcutta. Although he has since largely disappeared from Western cultural discourse, in his lifetime he was universally esteemed. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 (the first Asian author to receive the award), and his works were translated by Yeats and Gide. His play ""The Post Office"" was performed on the radio in Paris the night before the city fell to the Nazis. Unfortunately, the bulk of this anthology is given over haphazardly to Tagore's letters, essays and occasional pieces, which are wide-ranging but often unworthy of his other writings: as the introduction admits, ""Tagore was not an analytical thinker, always an intuitive one."" That intuitive ability, however, lends grace and power to the small collection of short stories in this anthology--lovely little parable-like tales about ungrateful wives or sycophantic upper-class Babus too enamored of the British. ""The Post Office""--about a young boy who is dying and is under the misapprehension that the local Raja will soon come to visit him--also stands out for its gentle spirit. The anthology allows the casual Western reader to see Tagore's greatness, but it fails to offer anything more than a mere glimpse. (Nov.)