Rabindranath Tagore's 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature helped renew interest in modern Indian literature and, in particular, Bengali literature. However, by the mid-nineteenth century Bengali literature had already come into its own, distinguishing itself in the genres of poetry, short story, novel, and essays of intellection and reminiscence. It grew diversely and through varied channels in the twentieth century, a period of social change and upheaval.
The Oxford India Anthology of Bengali Literature celebrates the richness and diversity of the literature spread across 130 years. The two-volume anthology represents around 100 writers and includes nearly 250 selections from poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction. The chronological dividing line of 1941 between the two volumes represents not just the end of an era with Tagore's death, but the beginning of a new period marked by traumatic changes in both Bengals, amply reflected in the literature.
Beginning with Michael Madhusudan Datta, and the constantly-evolving Rabindranath Tagore, this volume moves on to other celebrated poets like Sukumar Ray, Jibanananda Das, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Jasim Uddin, Bishnu Dey, Buddhadeva Bose, Sudhindranath Datta, and Samar Sen. Similarly, the short fiction and non-fiction sections are characterized by chronological and varied selections, many of them translated especially for this volume. Extraordinary in literary merit, the 100 odd selections stand out as important social documents affording rare glimpses of the age, the social ethos, and the writers' perspectives.
Carefully selected and introduced, the chronological listing of works by authors helps readers get a sense of the evolution of various literary genres and sub-genres across one and a half centuries of literary creation. Placing the writings in their historical context, the Introduction affords a broad conceptual understanding of the socio-political and cultural mores of the times.
It will appeal to anybody who enjoys good writing as well as students and scholars of comparative literature, translation studies, and Indian literature in translation, especially Bengali literature.
‘This is by far the most serious and comprehensive introduction to Bengali literature attempted till now. One can argue with the editor about what she has included or excluded, but then, ultimately, every editor must leave his or her stamp on a volume of this kind. ... This is a marvellous compilation and obviously a labour of love.' —Ashis Nandy, ICSSR National Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi
‘This is a remarkable collection in translation from the highlights of Bengali literature. For somebody reared in the Bengali literature, like me, this is a nostalgic trip through exciting but familiar territory. The collection will serve a different purpose for those unfamiliar with the literature presented here, but I am sure they will share the excitement of encountering a very rich collection of contributions in an accessible and remarkably well presented form.'—Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate, and Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, Harvard University
‘An excellent anthology of the entire range of modern Bengali literary production ... The first of its kind, Bardhan's anthology has achieved a rare combination of the concise and the comprehensive. … This will fill an important gap in the study of Bengali literature, placing in the hands of those who are curious about this rich literary tradition but cannot read the language, a selection of great skill and discernment.‘—Sudipta Kaviraj, Professor, South Asian Politics, Columbia University
Kalpana Bardhan taught Economics at University of California, Berkeley, but for the last twenty years she has been a well-known translator.