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The Home and the World by Rabindranath…

The Home and the World

by Rabindranath Tagore

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The setting for this landmark novel is Bengal in 1908. A movement for India's independence from Britain has gathered momentum using a form of protest known as swadeshi, a boycott of European goods to further India's economic self-sufficiency. However, in the household of Nikhil, a wealthy landowner, deep philosophical divisions have arisen over swadeshi.

The novel is narrated in rotation by its three principal characters. Nikhil is a sensitive and compassionate man. As much as he want's India's freedom, he would not purchase it at the cost of innocent lives. Nikhil makes sacrifices himself in support of swadeshi, buying poor quality locally-made goods even though they are more expensive, but he will force nothing on others. Nikhil's philosophy of self-denial is put into words by his old tutor:

"We think ... that we are our own masters when we get in our hands the object of our desire -- but we are really our own masters only when we are able to cast out our desires from our minds."

Opposing Nikhil is his old friend and houseguest, Sandip, a man with unlimited ambitions who sees himself as India's liberator and does not hesitate to sacrifice the welfare of others to achieve his ends.

"And yet get it I must; how, I do not care; for sin there cannot be. Sin taints only the weak. I ... am beyond its reach. Only a commoner can be a thief, the king conquers and takes his rightful spoil."

Between Nikhil and Sandip is Nikhil's wife, Bimala. Her life is that of a normal, retiring Hindu wife until she overhears Sandip. His words ignite in her the fires of patriotism and ambition.

"The very next day I saw Sandip and madness, naked and rampant, danced upon my heart."

It doesn't take Sandip long to realize that Bimala is the key to his gaining access to Nikhil's resources.

"We are men, we are kings, we must have our tribute. Ever since we have come upon the Earth we have been plundering her; and the more we claimed, the more she submitted.... Likewise, by sheer force of our claims, we men have opened up all the latent possibilities of women. In the process of surrendering themselves to us, they have ever gained their true greatness.

In beautiful, poetic prose the subtle but forceful battle for the heart and mind of Bimala, as for all of India, is carried out between the two men and their opposing philosophies. ( )
3 vote StevenTX | Sep 20, 2011 |
A complex and beautiful story about a woman in 1900's India. Bimala is a beautiful married woman who struggles between the traditional culture she was raised to follow, and her husband Nikhil's ideas about individuality, equality, and knowledge. When a young revolutionary-thinking man named Sandip comes into their lives, Bimala discovers feelings and thoughts that she had not previously experienced.
I very much enjoyed reading this book by Bengali author Tagore. The rich culture and exotic setting of the novel was interesting and well drawn, and I liked the three main characters. The book is written so that in each chapter, all three of them give an account of the story from their differing points of view. It makes Bimala, Sandip, and Nikhil unique and realistic, and it fills in the story perfectly.
I especially liked the ending of the story, and the character of Nikhil. I hated Sandip's arrogance, and related to Bimala's confusion.
Recommended. ( )
  joririchardson | Jan 19, 2010 |
Written during the Indian uprising. Effects on one family. ( )
  autumnesf | Sep 8, 2009 |
Classic of India from early 1900's.My favorite authors up till now have been Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, but now that I've read two books by Rabindranath Tagore I've got to add him right up there at the top of my list. I can see why he's one of India's most favored authors and I really can't believe that he is not more popular than he is here in this USA. Not a person I've mentioned him to so far has ever heard of him. Give him a try and you'll want to read more, start with Purabi, be sure to be in a relaxed mood when you do!!! ( )
  Jim-Per | May 29, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140449868, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:36 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Set on a Bengali noble 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.

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