of True Love
Jackie Kabir reviews Mircae Eliade's La Nuit Bengali
Mircae Eliade's famous book La Nuit Bengali was translated into Bangla by Shoshodhor. The book was originally written by a famous Romanian author and philosopher Mircea Eliade in 1933.
La Nuit Bengali meaning The Bengali Night by Mircea Eliade acted as the catalyst for Maitreyi Devi to write her version of the same story. Even though there was a deal between both the writers that Mircea's book would not be translated into English in either of their lifetimes, it was made into a movie in 1988. This made Maitreyi very upset and she even filed a lawsuit against the making of the film. She complained that it had misrepresented Indian culture and their religion.
One cannot help but think that La Nuit Bengali is more like reading someone's personal diary. It gives the feeling of authentic real-life occurrences as all the characters share the names of the real-life people. The magical description of Calcutta in the 1930s and its surroundings makes the reader travel back in time and witness a love affair that was alive, sad and heart felt.
A sixteen-year-old Bengali girl attired in a saree with her golden brown arms exposed was enough to turn a twenty-two year old foreigner wild with emotions. Emotions he had no control over. As they come close to each other on the pretext of teaching each other their languages, they fall in love. A kind of love that ignores all barriers, breaks all the rules and leaves them devastated. As Maitreyi's parents gave shelter to a foreigner in the hope of adopting him as their son, the whole family was in distress as their escapade was revealed. Mr. Sen who was Mircea's boss and guardian ousted him from his house. The real story begins here. One has to learn what goes through the mind of young lovers as they were separated from one another. Mircea's version was quite different from Maitreyi Devi's as they both felt abandoned by the other.
A young girl who worshipped Tagore believed in platonic love. Whereas Mircea with his European background emphasized on the physical aspect of heavenly love. Together they found a great love, a kind of love that is forbidden in all ages.
The publisher quoted Rabindranath saying
'If there was anything that ever conquered fear, disregarded any form of danger, even was unafraid by death, it was love.'
Like all great literary works it is this kind love that is the main subject of this book. Class conflict is also a prime theme in La Nuit Bengali. The Anglo-Indians didn't think very highly of the Bengali Hindus and vice versa. Mircea was friends mostly with the Anglo-Indians so when Mr. Sen invited him to stay at his house all his friends looked at it as a kind of trap. After meeting Maitreyi everything he did in his previous life felt like a sham, all the relationships he had with other women seemed like sin to him. Mircea was almost insane with sorrow as he could no longer see Maitreyi once he was out of her house. But Maitreyi kept finding out his whereabouts and sending him messages through a family relative. This put her in great danger as her parents would beat her black and blue every time they found out about it. So he left the city and went to live in the Himalayas and roamed about in the hills for months. Here he met a Finish girl who attracted him physically and he pretended to find solace in her arms, only to find out that it was but short lived.
Maitreyi Devi's book claimed that the love she and Eliade shared was platonic whereas Mircea gave vivid description of their lovemaking in his book. He described it in great detail which infuriated Maitreyi Devi. But it can be said without any doubt that the feelings they shared for each other was none other than a love that was true by its own right. Hence it is a tragedy that they could not be together. One cannot help but feel sad reading the longing of Mircea to lay his eyes on his beloved. Maitreyi was equally frantic to find out about him. Both the books must be read in order to find the true essence of love that both these characters shared.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009