I have published a beautiful new book called Tagore Speaks to the Twenty-First Century.
My book looks beautiful because the cover features the portrait my daughter drew, in which Tagore seems to gaze deeply into your eyes. My book feels beautiful because I asked for it to be ‘limp bound’ so that it opens easily. (The pages were stitched in sections with minimal adhesive and paperback cover, and the book is easy to read, being uncluttered and free of in-text referencing or note numbers.) This is important because the contents lend themselves to opening at random for Tagore’s words and some part of the story of his journeys and talks in Europe and America. The contents are beautiful, as they are full of Tagore’s wisdom and hope for the future.
[My book is NOT ‘spiral bound’ -an error by ISBN people, Nielson, picked up by online book sellers.]
Was there an immediate rush for copies? Sadly, no. I announced the book on facebook, as one does, and many friends congratulated me. Two people followed the link I gave and bought copies online using the PayPal ‘buttons’ a friend had set up for me. I have sent out about 20 complimentary copies all around the world, the first three to Australia, Malaysia and India, as I always expected to do, and that resulted in two offers of reviews. So fine!
It should be the best of times to bring out a book of wisdom and hope, but it feels like the worst of times. I have really struggled to contact people who I think would be interested, to tell them about the book, because of being so depressed over the ‘Brexit’ result – ‘Tagore will be turning in his grave’, as a friend and fellow Tagore scholar wrote to me recently.
One of Tagore’s books was called ‘Creative Unity’, and I began my chapter on that book with a quote from Patrick Colm Hogan, on identity:
Tagore opposed any narrow identification with a group. Whether that group was religious or racial, whether it was a caste or nation. For Tagore, the function of such identification was invariably exclusion, hierarchy—and violence. That is why Tagore contrasted national independence with a deeper and more encompassing freedom that eschews the categories of what we now call ‘the politics of identity’. Drawing on the idioms of Hindu metaphysics—according to which all individual souls are ultimately identical in brahman, according to which all material differences are a web of maya, mere illusion—Tagore wrote that ‘Our fight’ is not a battle for a new political entity, which can despise all other political entities. Rather, it is a struggle ‘for Man. We are to emancipate Man from the meshes that he himself has woven round him–these organizations of national egoism’. (Hogan, 2003)