Review: The Home and The World by Rabindranath Tagore

The Home and the World is a literary masterpiece by Rabindranath Tagore. Set as a love triangle in the backdrop of Swadesi movement in the then Bengal, it is essentially an exploration of the noosphere surrounding the revolution, encapsulating Tagore's personal critique on the movement's ideology.

All the three central characters of the novel are distressed, while treading their paths for greatness. Bimala is a young wife who seeks greatness (which every "woman is entitled to") through utmost devotion and surrender, and she finds the cause in the passionate desires of her husband's friend and in the nationalist movement. Nikhil, a rich businessman and Bimala's husband, is a noble soul who seeks to be just by abiding to his spiritual principles while he is being denounced as a traitor by the countrymen. Sandip is Nikhil's childhood friend and local leader of the nationalist movement who falls in love with Bimala. He seeks glory through power and material success, and considers restraint as a sign of weakness.

Each of the three characters narrate their trials and tribulations in first person in long monologues ('tell, not show'). While this style takes some time getting used to, by the time one finishes the book it becomes clear that Tagore could not have invented a more suitable technique for narration. There is but only a minimal tangible action and the central drama of the story unfolds within the characters, slowly and turbulently... and giving three distinct perspectives for the readers to brood on.
With fluency and lyric Tagore turns the characters inside out... something inconceivable for me as a writer just yet.

The crux of the novel lies in the philosophical debates (illusion v/s truth, pragmatism/materialism v/s spiritual idealism, passion v/s virtues) it is rich with. They are relevant and enthralling, and raise important questions that are applicable for all such expeditions.

Having been raised to sing Bande Mataram with supreme pride (and seeing the recent political dramas in the country), I find the book unique and urgently important for this generation, and the ones coming.

Can't wait to watch Satyajit Ray's cinematic adaptation!

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