Rustom Bharucha, ‘Another Asia: Rabindranath Tagore & Okakura Tenshin’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)

South Asia Research (SAGE Journals): Vol. (32) (2): 165-178 | August 2012
Nizar Manek, Columbia University
The author, a Calcutta-based independent writer, director and cultural critic, weaves together an elegant study of pan-Asianism, nationalism, cosmopolitanism and friendship, drawn out through the 1902 meeting of two luminaries of Asia: the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, and the Japanese art historian and curator Okakura Tenshin. Drawing on intersections from the late Meiji period in Japan and the Swadeshi movement in Bengal, the book does not attempt to deepen the existing hagiography of the iconic, if idealised, friendship between the two figures; its purpose is to outline an intellectual history of their affinities to Asia.
The insightful section on nationalism provides analyses of the characters and contexts in Tagore’s novels, it addresses the Saidian legacy of Orientalism (1978), and traces the origins of Sahitye Aitihasikata (Historicality in Literature, 1941), a relatively unknown but recorded conversation between Tagore and Bengali writer Buddhadev Bose. The analysis is formative, and the general presentation of the relation between Tagore and Tenshin evokes that quality of adbhuta rasa, or wonder, which the author hopes will resonate with the narrative.
(973 words)