Book Review: On Tagore: Reading the Poet Today by Amit Chaudhuri

Title: On Tagore: Reading the Poet Today
Author: Amit Chaudhuri
Publisher: Penguin Viking India
ISBN: 978-0-670-08621-4
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 178
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

When you write about Tagore, you take a risk. A major risk at that. It is not easy then to talk about the man and his works over years of writing – plays, prose and poetry and more so to lucidly make sense of what he meant and why. So when I received copy of “On Tagore” by Amit Chaudhuri from Penguin, I was a little skeptical to read it. Why? For the simple reason that I hold Tagore in high regard and didn’t want my semi-god stance to shatter to pieces.

Rabindranath Tagore was quite a radical thinker in his own ways. I would also go a step further and say that he was one of the first writers of the country whose heroines were liberated in their thinking and sometimes action and that said a lot about him as a person. Amit Chaudhuri’s five essays on the writer explore different facets of Tagore – his thoughts, his concerns with the movement, the modernist, the conventional and sometimes the revolutionary. Amit Chaudhuri paints a picture of Tagore like no other and to manage that in less than two hundred pages is something commendable.

Amit Chaudhuri also touches on the topic of what it is like to read Tagore today and what it actually means. He talks of the dichotomy in Tagore’s works and explains it as clearly as possible through Geetanjali, heavily through his prose, a few other poems and his songs. I liked how Mr. Chaudhuri covered almost every aspect of the writer and the relation to modernity and relation to contemporary society.

On Tagore can get to be a dull read for people who aren’t interested in Tagore’s writing or his style. I do not recommend this book to everyone, but definitely to those who are interested in knowing more about Indian Literature’s doyen and his works, should definitely not give this work a miss.

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