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The Home and the World

by Rabindranath Tagore, Helene Meyer-Franck (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6061133,570 (3.61)56
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.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In early twentieth century India, a man and wife are more fully revealed to one another when they find themselves on opposite sides of a political divide. Where the husband Nikhil is intransigent towards the first burgeoning of India's independence movement, Bimala is swept up by the fine speeches of its lead proponent and aligns herself with the cause. It is not until words must translate into actions that her choice is truly put to the test. There is an excellent Wikipedia entry for this novel that is worth reading afterwards, uncovering its many themes and providing more historical context.

The novel's first half is thin on action, long on politically-laced dialogue and overloaded with metaphor. I like that sort of thing, so for me this was still was a great read when another reader might understandably find it dry. Tagore clearly had a lock on diametrically opposed perspectives, demonstrating a deep understanding of their relative positions and self-justifications. Marital strife isn't front and centre, but adds a secondary layer as events unfold.

Mint Editions has included simple explanations for a number of terms I would have otherwise required some help with, and not just definitions but also explanations as well for cultural practices which the author assumes his readers are familiar with. This made the reading much easier and more enjoyable for me. Some are marked as translator notes, and the credits identify the author's nephew Surendranath Tagore as translator to English from the original Bengali. ( )
  Cecrow | Mar 9, 2022 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
My exposure to Tagore was previously limited to Satyajit Ray's films of this book and other Tagore works as well as his documentary on the author. Initially I was reminded of early Turgenev or other mid 19th century Russian novels where the characters work out their relationships through a filter of their prescriptions for their homeland's resurrection. It moves to an environment of very effective high sexual tension that I thought owed something to D.H. Lawrence. Later in the book what is described as an explicit Western novel figures in the plot and I thought it must be a Lawrence work. The two male protagonists indulge in a Nietzschean will to power struggle that resolves itself in an ending that one could describe as involving aspects from a thriller. The translation by Tagore's brother into a somewhat old fashioned English prose which is nevertheless natural and effective. Overall, a good introduction to an important author.
  pitjrw | Jul 5, 2021 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"This is exactly how such curious anomalies happen nowadays in our country. We must have our religion and also our nationalism... The result is that both of them suffer." So muses Sandip, one of the three main characters in this passionate revolutionary and personal drama of a novel.

The story is told on behalf of Nikhil, his wife of 9 years Bimala, and Sandip, a revolutionary staying at their mansion. The chapters on behalf of the three of them, telling the story from their own point of view, interchange throughout the book. The year is 1916, Bengal, India, during the developing Swadeshi (nationalist ) movement.

There is a sharp controversy between "used-to-be" friends, Nikhil and Sandip, as to which direction the country should go and by which means. Nikhil is a philosophical type and has strong moral values, while Sandip is a reckless revolutionary, with the "the-end-justifies-the-means" ideas. Bimala starts as an epitome of a devotional Hindu wife (constantly and sincerely "taking dust off her husband's feet", idolizing him..), but then evolving into a follower of Sandip who manipulates her in different ways, which she, thankfully, realizes by the end of the story.

In my understanding, Tagore was still struggling with searching for a solution to India's problems of that era. The novel is full of metaphoric speeches and pathos, while also poignantly describing the inner struggle of the main characters. It evokes turmoil and disquiet, not any distinct and rational answers. ( )
1 vote Clara53 | Jun 27, 2021 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Thank you Mint Editions for bringing back this book in a slim affordable format. It was first published in 1916. Rabindranath Tagore was a Nobel Prize winning author and this book is highly readable with appropriate footnotes. One feels desperately for all the characters but it is like a Shakespearian tragedy. Their lives are doomed as their actions or inactions propel them into history. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the beginnings of the Indian Nationalist movement. ( )
  RiversideReader | Jun 22, 2021 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Prior to Gandhi's international fame after World War I, Rabindranath Tagore was the most famous writer in Bengali society and the most well known Indian writer in the world. For his achievements in poetry Tagore received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. His novel, "The Home and the World" was published in 1916. The novel received acclaim because of Tagore's fame as a Nobel Prize winner and a critic of British imperial rule, the religious divide between Hindu and Muslim, the caste system in India, and the potential dangers of violent nationalism.

One approaches this novel in a similar way today, because of whom Tagore is. It is a tendentious novel. The principal characters represent the debate within Tagore himself, and illustrate competing ideas. Nikhil is an aristocratic landowner opposed to nationalism, who strives for modernist, scientific knowledge, but who can fail to appreciate the pressure on traditional society by forces of change. His friend Sandip challenges Nikhil's non-violent approach and urges a rise in Indian nationalism to overthrow British rule in any way possible. Then there is Bimala, Nikhil's young wife, who reprrsents the feminine principle of India, torn between respect for husband, family,traditional roles and attraction to desires outside of traditonal roles in Indian society.

To be an effective tendentious novel the characters must be more than the moralizing positions of the author. These characters are flat and one-dimensional. As a tract it is illustrative of Tagore's beliefs and his ability to represent opposing positions. As a work of fiction it is dull and uninspiring. To better appreciate these dichotomies in a novel turn to Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children" or Arundhati Roy's "The God of Small Things". ( )
  LouisNosko | Jun 21, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rabindranath Tagoreprimary authorall editionscalculated
Meyer-Franck, HeleneTranslatormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Terziani, SabinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Home and the World is a great modern novel that has waited a long time to come into its own.
Introduction

Georg Lukács condemned The Home and the World as 'a petit bourgeois yarn of the shoddiest kind' and said of Tagore that he was a 'wholly insignificant figure...whose creative powers do not even stretch to a decent pamphlet.
Chapter One

Bimala's Story


Mother, today there comes back to mind the vermilion mark at the parting of your hair, the sari which you used to wear, with its wide red border, and those wonderful eyes of yours, full of depth and peace.
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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.

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