Tagore’s suppressed book is finally available in an English translation.
In 1875, a prominent Calcutta journal published a suite of poems by a “newly discovered” seventeenth-century Bengali poet, Bhanusimha. The poems were celebrated, yet, several years later, critics realized they had been drawn in by an embarrassing deception: the poet did not exist, and—perhaps worse—the true author was a precocious fourteen-year-old boy, Rabindranath Tagore.
These poems, which Tagore continually revised over the next sixty-five years, tell a story of love and longing through the songs of Lord Krishna’s young lover Radha and her confidante Bhanu. They draw from Indian culture, history, and spirituality, and as the first and last poems that the Nobel Prize-winning Tagore wrote, they represent both entrance and exit for one of the most prolific literary lives in modern poetry.
This is The Lover of God’s first appearance in English translation, the result of a long collaboration between Bengali scholar Tony K. Stewart and the celebrated poet Chase Twichell. The poems are presented bilingually and are illuminated by an introduction and postscript, as well as the false biography Tagore wrote for Bhanusimha.
“Twichell’s free versions, based on Stewart’s literal parsings and printed face-to-face with the Bengali text, evoke the spiritual content that kept Tagore’s interest: the longing for god that only death fulfills. Directly about the beloved of adolescent Krishna during his sojourn as a human, the poems contain two voices, that of the longing girl, Radha, and that of a counselor, seemingly an older woman, who consoles her and chides the god for his absence. An introduction, a postscript, and a translation of Tagore’s facetious biography of the ostensible poet invaluably complete a lovely volume.” —Booklist
“In this attractive volume, Stewart, a scholar of Bengali religion and literature, teams up with the poet Twichell to translate (or, as Stewart himself admits, re-create) these delightful poems. Wonderful re-creations they are, products of the marriage of Stewart’s mastery of the linguistic and cultural forms and Twichell’s ability to produce ‘faithful, but not literal’ English translations… Highly recommended for all libraries.” —Religious Studies Review