A twenty-something Romanian student with Fascist associations who happens to be quite fluent in French and has a bit of English arrives in Calcutta in British India to study with a renowned Bengali scholar. The scholar takes an interest in the young European and invites him to stay at his home as a member of his large household. Over the course of a number of months of miscommunication across cultures, everyone speaking their second or third language but never their first, the two young people fall in love — or think they fall in love — which amounts to the same thing. Alas, her parents discover their star-crossed love in the delirious beri beri ravings of her younger sister. Her father orders the young man out of the house and threatens to have him deported if he tries to contact his daughter.
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Originally published in Romanian in , this semiautobiographical novel by the world renowned scholar Mircea Eliade details the passionate awakenings of Alain, an ambitious young French engineer flush with colonial pride and prejudice and full of a European fascination with the mysterious subcontinent.
Offered the hospitality of a senior Indian colleague, Alain grasps at the chance to discover the authentic India firsthand. He soon finds himself enchanted by his host's daughter, the lovely and inscrutable Maitreyi, a precocious young poet and former student of Tagore. What follows is a charming, tentative flirtation that soon, against all the proprieties and precepts of Indian society, blossoms into a love affair both impossible and ultimately tragic.
This erotic passion plays itself out in Alain's thoughts long after its bitter conclusion. In hindsight he sets down the story, quoting from the diaries of his disordered days, and trying to make sense of the sad affair. A vibrantly poetic love story, Bengal Nights is also a cruel account of the wreckage left in the wake of a young man's self discovery.
At once horrifying and deeply moving, Eliade's story repeats the patterns of European engagement with India even as it exposes and condemns them. Invaluable for the insight it offers into Eliade's life and thought, it is a work of great intellectual and emotional power.
But do not open it if you prefer to remain unmoved by your reading matter. It is enough to make stones weep. Many of his scholarly works, as well as his two-volume autobiography and four-volume journal, are published by the University of Chicago Press.
Translated into French in , Bengal Nights was an immediate critical success. The film, Les Nuits Bengali , appeared in Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving….
Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Maitreyi by Mircea Eliade. Maitreyi by Mircea Eliade. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published March 28th by Humanitas first published January 1st More Details Original Title. Allan , Maitreyi Devi , Surendranath Dasgupta. Calcutta , India Kolkata , India.
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More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Maitreyi. Initially upon finishing it I rated it quite highly, but after I've had more time to think about the content, I felt much less compelled to do so.
Bengal Nights was written by a European man in India Calcutta in the s , so I knew I was going to be shaking my head a lot. I expected racism, exotification, cultural ignorance and superiority, paternalism and simplification of the other, and I got all those: "Once more I saw that it was civilized people who were simple, innocent, and clear.
These Indians, whom I loved so much that I wanted to become one of them, all nurtured in the recesses of their beings a whole impenetrable history and mythology.
How deep, complex and unintelligible they seemed to me. He clearly has a couple of agendas. He is a man who believes he can "save" the country and change things, a man who thinks he knows more about the country because of his "superior" status as a European.
He is arrogant but he believes he's benevolent and understanding. I was also sure that the encounter of this ancient world with our modern work had yet to find its novelist. I had discovered an India quite different to the one I had read about in sensational newspaper articles The deeper I ventured into this wild domain, the more consuming became a hitherto unconscious notion of my superiority, the more violently assertive a pride of which I would never have believed myself capable.
I was well and truly in the jungle, no longer a social being with perfect self-control. The book is an interesting look into the interracial relationships that can be further complicated by race, colonial attitudes, religion, and societal expectations.
There are implications for both but, as to be expected, worse and more serious ones for the woman. Alain is torn between his life as a privileged white man in India and his intrigue for this other exotic life. Perhaps compounded by his love for Maitreyi, he puts India on a pedestal. I've seen this happen before, it's not new, but it is interesting how common it is and how it manifests itself: "I described my meeting with Harold to them frankly and confided my disgust at the life the Europeans and Anglo-Indians led in Calcutta-- a life of which I had for so long been a part.
The author masked his own identity in the book yet he mentioned Maitreyi's very clearly and even used an identifier He mentions her association with Tagore's protegee. If he understood Indian Bengali Indian culture like he said he did, surely he would have known better than to write such a tale, fictionalized or not, about a person it can easily be attributed to? Additionally, the sexual relationship between Alain and Maitreya is quite explicitly stated, and this was Calcutta in the s, so I can only assume that it was a more conservative time than it is now.
View all 18 comments. Sep 15, Andreea Obreja rated it it was ok Shelves: romanian-literature , owned , read-in-romanian. I hate him! He gets what he wants, then leaves, doing all kinds of stupid stuff because suffering for love is just so poetic and everybody just loves a sad hero Or in the beginning when he just couldn't admit what he really thought and mocked everything Indian so that he wouldn't look bad. And in the end he just HAD to be such a cynic about that girl's thoughts I don't feel like rating this.
There were some things I liked but I can't remember them because I'm too furious. I shall rate it i I hate him! I shall rate it in the future, when I may be less subjective. I just kind of hated everything about this story. The language was extremely sickeningly-sweet and over-affected. The story-line was somehow good but I hated each and everyone in it: narrow-minded people who can only see things one way and no other, who only think of themselves and how something makes THEM look.
Some may say this is reality: well, you know what, I despise it! And no, it's not, in reality people do care about each other but this book is written from the point of view of someone very young and selfish. He's like every teenager out there, imagining "What would people think if I threw myself in the Gange?
Will they then understand my suffering? Will they be sorry for what they did to me? It's probably the first book I hate with such a passion so you can't say I'm someone who likes to criticize what others write. Actually, I'm pretty generous in my opinions but this book was simply hateful.
Yeah, yeah, great insight into 's India and all but you don't really have to read a novel if you want to know those things. You must know I'm rather sick right now and I may have a fever, so I'm not thinking straight. View all 19 comments. Mar 24, Jo. This is just pure trash that I wish I didn't have to read for school and that it wasn't presented as the greatest love story Romania's ever damned seen.
Here's the plot: Allan is a fetishist pig that mystifies India, abuses his power as an older man and manipulates an inexperienced 16 year old to fall in love with him and wishes she would get raped so that she could be only his after she's cast out by her family , gets jealous over everything A TREE!!
Oh and he's the real tragedy in the end. Poor Allan. And they say romance is dead. This is Elide's erotic fantasy published without Maitreyi's consent or knowledge. I'm not going to translate that for the benefit of your own eyeballs.
Don't read this book.
Love in The Bengali Night Does Not Die: Maitreyi Devi and Mircea Eliade
Written by Torsa Ghosal. Torsa Ghosal is the Associate Editor of Papercuts magazine. Read more by this writer Read more from this section. Note: This is an excerpt.
A very long Engagement
The tendril of a romance. An angered banishment. A telling. A counter-telling. A confrontation.