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28 November 2006

Rabindranath Tagore(1861-1941)

Nobel laureate

From Books and Writers

Greatest writer in modern Indian literature, Bengali poet, novelist, educator, and an early advocate of Independence for India. Tagaore won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Two years later he was awarded the knighthood, but he surrendered (sic) it in 1919 as a protest against the Massacre of Amritsar, where British troops killed some 400 Indian demonstrators. Tagore's influence over Gandhi and the founders of modern India was enormous, but his reputation in the West as a mystic has perhaps mislead his Western readers to ignore his role as a reformer and critic of colonialism.

'When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose touch of the one in the play of the many.' (from Gitanjali)*

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Tagore's reputation as a writer was established in the United States and in England after the publication of GITANJALI: SONG OFFERINGS*, about divine and human love. The poems were translated into English by the author himself. In the introduction from 1912 William Butler Yates wrote: "These lyrics - which are in the original, my Indians tell me, full of subtlety of rhythm, of untranslatable delicacies of colour, of metrical invention - display in their thought a world I have dreamed of all my life long." Tagore's poems were also praised by Ezra Pound, and drew the attention of the Nobel Prize committee. "There is in him the stillness of nature. The poems do not seem to have been produced by storm or by ignition, but seem to show the normal habit of his mind. He is at one with nature, and finds no contradictions. And this is in sharp contrast with the Western mode, where man must be shown attempting to master nature if we are to have "great drama." (Ezra Pound in Fortnightly Review, 1 March 1913) However, Tagore also experimented with poetic forms and these works have lost much in translations into other languages.

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Tagore wrote his most important works in Bengali, but he often translated his poems into English. At the age of 70
Tagore took up painting. He was also a composer, settings hundreds of poems to music. Many of his poems are actually songs, and inseparable from their music. Tagore's 'Our Golden Bengal' became the national anthem of Bangladesh. Only hours before he died on August 7, in 1941, Tagore dictated his last poem. His written production, still not completely collected, fills nearly 30 substantial volumes.

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