These short stories have been read by three generations in my family, so it provides an insight into the life of my grandparents and great grandparents. I feel very little has been lost in translation, and the true message and feeling Tagore was trying to convey are very much in evidence in these short stories.
No matter how short his stories are they are always poignant and well paced. Tagore quite rightly is referred to as a master story teller, and many of his works have been converted to film in the world of Bengali cinema, some have even crossed over to Bollywood. His haunting tales are worth reading and it is a shame it is no longer in vogue to read Tagore, as he really has so much to offer.
Containing thirty very short stories, often only about six pages long, yet for all their brevity the author completely wraps you up in the world and the events.
Set in and around the River Padma (near Calcutta) in the late 19th century, Tagore writes of the ordinary people: deaths and marriages, children, poverty, the rich, the mean, the avaricious... Plus a couple with a ghostly touch. It's an era where women are definitely second-class-citizens; especially if they fall ill, when their husbands may well seek another wife; where the Hindus live alongside a Moslem population and the English governors....and where the river is a constant backdrop with its luxury houseboats and its monsoon flooding.
The collection includes a poem, 'Passing Time in the Rain' (from which I have taken title of this review) and a selection of letters written by Tagore. Also a comprehensive glossary of Hindu terms encountered, a family-tree of family and map of Padma River area.
Masterly storytelling, enhanced by a superb translation.
on 13 April 2007
Although Tagore has been somewhat forgotten in Europe, he remains one of the most fluid of writers and he should be due for a revival as India becomes more prominent on the horizon of our euro-centric conciousness and the experience of colonialism, cultural and political, retreat to a safe distance. The stories are excellent and entertaining. Although the culture that Tagore describes has passed away, there is a tension between nascent modernism and the traditional life of Bengal that flavours the background and strikes perhaps a more contemporary note than say fifty years ago.