Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Chokher Bali by Rabindranath Tagore

On the jacket:

Tagore elaborately records early twentieth-century Bengali society through his central character, a rebellious widow who wants to live a life of her own. Tagore said about the novel, ‘I have always regretted the ending’. Description: ‘The literature of the new age seeks not to narrate a sequence of events, but to reveal the secrets of the heart. Such is the narrative mode of Chokher Bali’—Rabindranath Tagore, Preface to Chokher Bali Chokher Bali explores the forbidden emotions unleashed when a beautiful young widow enters the seemingly harmonious world of a newly married couple. This path-breaking novel by Rabindranath Tagore weaves a tangled web of relationships between the pampered and self-centred Mahendra, his innocent, childlike bride Asha, their staunch friend Bihari, and the wily, seductive Binodini, whose arrival transforms the lives of all concerned. Radha Chakravarty’s translation brings the world of Tagore’s fiction to life, in lucid, idiomatic prose.


I am not sure why I am reviewing this book. Or why anyone needs to. Tagore doesn't need validation, that too from us. But yes, this is a translated version and reading it was an experience different from what reading an original would have been. Always is.

A tale about passion, desires, relationships, unfulfilled dreams as well as honesty, Chokher Bali is spun around members of a regular Bengali family. Since I have read the original, I found the translation is not doing justice to the story. Now, it's like any other average story. In a way it's unfair to the authors, because whoever reads their translated version are almost always kept wondering - what is so great about them. On the upside, by reading a translated version, an awesome story can be read by more people.

A tragic love story, my favourite character here is Binodini. One just needs to read how Tagore has described her emotions, and feel them. A man writing about the depth of a woman's feelings and making such a spectacular attempt of it - call me prejudiced but only Tagore could do this! Don't read more of this, just go pick the book. 

Review: *****/5 to the story and ***/5 to the translation

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

1 comment:

  1. Recently, I attended a panel discussion ( which was about Tagore and what influenced him. (Unfortunately, I cannot read Bengali and so I have always read Tagore only in English. And when I read anything translated from Marathi to English, I always feel something is missing, so I am quite sure this happens when I read Tagore in English too.) Well, anyway, on this occasion, a new book with some translations of Tagore's Gitanjali poems was launched. They've been translated by an academic.... so it put my hopes up!


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