Bengal nights by Mircea Eliade, April 1, , University Of Chicago Press edition, Paperback in English - New Ed edition. Bengal Nights: A Novel [Mircea Eliade, Catherine Spencer] on musicmarkup.info * FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Set in s Calcutta, this is a roman à clef of. A vibrantly poetic love story, Bengal Nights is also a cruel account of the world renowned scholar Mircea Eliade details the passionate awakenings of Alain.
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ISBN o (cloth). Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Eliade, Mircea, [Maitreyi. English]. Bengal nights I Mircea Eliade. Get this from a library! Bengal nights. [Mircea Eliade]. Bengal nights by Mircea Eliade; 4 editions; First published in ; DAISY for print-disabled Download ebook for print-disabled (DAISY).
This book is printed on acid-free paper. Ifl hesitate in beginning, it is because I still have not managed to remember the exact date of my first meeting with Maitreyi. I have not found anything in my notes of that year. Her name does not appear until very much later - until after I had left the sanatorium and was living with Narendra Sen in Bhowani pore. But that was in and I had already seen Maitreyi, at least ten months earlier. As I begin, I feel somewhat pained that I cannot evoke an image of her at that time or re-live the surprise, uncertainty or confusion that I experienced at our first meetings.
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 Forty years after that, Maitreyi Devi, now a grandmother and known at home and abroad as a social reformer and Tagore scholar, was told the details of the book whose contents she had only been vaguely aware of.
She was horrified that her adolescent love story, strung tightly between desire and inhibition, had been turned into a full-fledged sexual romance and that she was so plainly identified in it.
Besides the pain and anger, there was something else: a need to fill in a silence in her life and make a better ending to what had been so abruptly broken off. In the days after her father banned Eliade from the house and forbade him to communicate, the young man had ignored the desperate messages Maitreyi contrived to send him.
Many years later, he had failed to respond to two or three brief friendly notes she wrote after meeting people who knew him. Now, in a turmoil of feelings, she resolved to seek him out. Taking advantage of a paid invitation to visit America, she tracked Eliade to the University of Chicago, where he was a professor. The meeting between the eminent and determined Maitreyi, in her 50s, and the even more eminent and utterly panicked Mircea, in his 60s, is the extraordinary climax of the book she wrote upon her return to India.
It tells of the painful romance, of the life she lived after it and of her pilgrimage to confront the past over a book-strewn library table. Each book is remarkable in its own very different way but by itself each would be something of a curiosity. Together they set off a brilliant, often astonishing detonation of the classic bipolarities: East-West, life-art, woman-man. The young Central European is intoxicated with India: the light, colors, smells, rituals and passions, and the religious and philosophical sense of life that underlies them.
Eliade was an artist as well as a thinker. His novel portrays a young man who stumbles into a magic kingdom: a household whose every detail and custom are a mystery that conceals a treasure. You have three days to sort out your affairs and to hand over to your successor at Tamluk.
I was to discover later that he had waged a hard battle with the board to have me, a white man, taken on. The company was swarajist and wanted to filter out the last of its foreign employees, to replace them with Indians. My new post was both higher in rank and better paid. Instead of 2 s o rupees a 12 month, I would earn , exceeding even the salary of a sales representative for Noel and Noel. I was reluctant to work in Assam, a region that was unhealthy and barely civilized.
However, my love for the jungle, which I had brought with me to India and which I had not yet been able to satisfy, triumphed. I accepted the offer and thanked him warmly. The engineer put his hand on my shoulder: "My wife and I like you very much, Alain, and we often think of you.
It is a pity you do not speak Bengali. I did indeed wonder - but only vaguely - why the engineer had chosen me, over all his compatriots, for the new post. The answer I gave myself was simple: he appreciated my quali ties. I had a clear opinion of my talent for construction, my position as white civilizer and the service which I was rendering to India.
When Harold learnt the news of my promotion in rank and salary, he at once wanted to celebrate with a small banquet in China Town. We invited some girls to come with us and set off in two taxis. Our group was noisy, bubbling over with high spirits and frivolity. Coming out of Park Street on to Chowringhee Road, our two cars raced each other, each team shouting at the driver and tapping him on the shoulder to spur him on.
Our charioteer was a magnificent Sikh who had fought in France during the war and he cried "Diable! Vin rouge! Vin blanc!
Gertie was sitting on my knees, clutching me with terror she knew that I had just had a tidy increase in salary , repeating over and over: "I'm going to fall. Aren't you afraid I'll fall? The others were gaining on us and we were dismayed at this unfortunate turn of events. At that moment, a car passed us and with horror I saw inside Narendra Sen, his wife and Maitreyi.
I blushed like a fool as I greeted them, and Sen smiled back at me with something of contempt. Maitreyi alone brought her palms to her forehead and returned my salutation. She appeared infinitely amused by the merry company around me and by the girl in my arms.
I wanted to execute an Indian greeting in return but all at once I realized the ludicrousness of my situation. My panic lasted until our car moved off again. I turned, and caught sight of Maitreyi's shawl floating in the wind, the colour of weak tea. My friends enjoyed themselves hugely over the respect and the embarrassment with which I had greeted a 'black'. Poor Harold, shocked at me once more, asked how I could be so friendly with a family of'negroes'.
The driver, however, was visibly exultant. When I paid him in front of the restaurant, he said to me in French, so the others would not understand, "Girl very nice, Sahib. Bahut accha! She was very beautiful. Do you love her? I had to take my friends out for a farewell party and as there were many of us, we economized by not taking a third taxi. Everyone had a girl on his lap.
There was nothing untoward, sir, or at least. It was obvious that, he found this litany of explanations excessive. He slapped me on the shoulder. You are worth more than this Anglo-Indian way of life. This hostel life will ruin you - you will never learn to love India if you live with these people.
Until then, he had asked only if I Bengal Nights were getting used to the food, if l had a good servant, if l were not suffering too much from the heat or the noise, if I liked tennis. We got down to work quickly. I had a pile of documents to sign. When it was time to leave, Sen asked me to dine with him at the Rotary Oub. None of my objections - that I was not properly dressed, that I was tired - satisfied him and I was forced to accept.
By the end of the evening, however, I was not sorry I had come. The admiration that the engineer's speech won from the distinguished audience was new proof that the man who had invited me to his table was of great worth and I felt that some of his glory must reflect on to me. I left for Shillong that same night. Only Harold accompanied me to the station, giving me some final advice: to beware of snakes, leprosy, malaria and stomach troubles.
Today I leafed through my diary at length and re-read the pages written during my time in Assam. What great pains I had taken in deciphering my daily notes, to transfer them to the journal which began with my new life!
I was filled with the strange sentiment that I was leading the life of a veritable pioneer, and my work on the construction of railway lines through the jungle seemed to me far more useful to India than a dozen books written about her. I was also sure that the en counter of this ancient world with our modern work had yet to find its novelist. I had discovered an India quite different from the one I had read about in sensational newspaper articles or books. I was living among tribes, with men who, until then, had been known only to ethnologists, amid that poisonous vegeta tion, under a never-ending rain and a humid and stifling heat.
I wanted to give life to a region overrun by bracken and creepers, populated by men who were at once cruel and innocent. I wanted to unearth the aesthetic and ethical life of these peo ples and each day I collected anecdotes, took photographs, drew up genealogies.
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. But the rains!
How many nights, tormented by depression, did I listen to the rhythmic and unforgettable sound of water falling off the roof. And those extraordinary downpours Bengal Nights which lasted for days at a time, broken only by a few hours of very soft rain that fell like a hot spray.
I would make my way. In the evenings, I would settle myself in the cool comfort of my room, or pace up and down the veranda of my bungalow, trying to rediscover the taste of my tobacco; the most minute precautions had not succeeded in protecting it from the humidity. At times I felt I could bear the life no longer. I would clench my fists, hit the balustrade with savage blows and make off under the rain into the darkness, no matter where, towards a place where the skies did not pour forth a ceaseless deluge, where the grass was not so high, so humid, so dense.
I wanted to see flowers again, to walk in plains like those at Tamluk, to feel a salty breeze or the dry wind of the desert on my face. The lingering smells of putrefaction drove me almost to madness. I was alone with three servants and the warden of the bun galow. When a stranger came to visit - a jute plantation inspec tor, the collector or a tea merchant en route would drink a glass of whisky together. I also drank alone each evening, after my bath.
So tired that I barely had any sensation in my body - I could have fallen and cut myself, I would not have felt i t - my nerves were none the less jangling, on edge. I shook, my breathing was tortuous and each time I got up from my chair I was overcome by dizziness.
I would sit staring into space as though in a trance. All notion oftime disappeared. And then I would stretch out on the chaise longue, in my only pair of pyjamas, my head lolling against my shoulder; the boy would bring a decanter of whisky and some seltzer water and I would gulp it down in small swigs. I drank until I felt a familiar warmth creep into my limbs.
Then I would jump up, massage my temples, dress and go outside to walk under the rains. Those walks without destination were my hours of weakness. I stayed outside until a desire to work or to sleep took me. I slept a lot, and heavily, especially during the three weeks when I was working on the construction forty miles north of Sadyia. I drove back to the bungalow late at night, sometimes after midnight, taking the track that wound along the hillside, trying to avoid the pot-holes; when I arrived back at the bun galow, I drank tea well-laced with rum, took some quinine and threw myself into bed fully clothed and unwashed.
We would leave the next morning by nine o'clock. I neglected my appearance more and more. There were very few whites in the whole region - not one during the months of heavy monsoon - and my only company was several Anglo Indian families. I would stay with them when the boredom overwhelmed me. I liked to listen to these people speaking English, and we drank together.
On Sundays, my servants took the train to Shillong to buy provisions. I slept late into the morning, waking with a heavy head and a clammy mouth. I stayed in bed all day, copying my notes into my journal.
I wanted to write a book later about the real life of a European in Assam and I analysed myself with as much precision as I could. My days of stagnation and depres sion took their place besides those other days, naturally more numerous, when the pioneer would awake in me, full of pride and power.
There I treated myself to sun, a long-promised trip to the cinema, had my gramophone repaired and bought some detective stories. They were the only books I was capable ofreading in that place. I had been told that my work was well appreciated at head quarters - not by our agent in Shillong, an Irishman with an inflated sense of his own importance, who had kept me waiting Bengal Nights outside his door without granting me an interview - but from Narendra Sen directly.
He wrote me a few typewritten lines almost every week, full of warmth and affection. I was due to take a month's leave in October. I was free to go to Calcutta from the middle of August, if I had finished my report and all my inspections and if the difficult passages around Sadyia had been satisfactorily completed. But the thing I dreaded most in my moments of depression occurred. At the beginning of August I fell ill - an acute case of malaria, complicated by nervous fatigue.
One evening, I returned to the bungalow earlier than usual. When I took a sip of my tea, I could taste nothing. My head was turning, I was feverish and trembling.
I went to bed having followed Harold's advice and drunk three glasses of brandy soda but in the morning I was delirious. An Anglo-Indian was called, a Mr Frank: he imme diately diagnosed malaria and had me taken to Sadyia that afternoon. The sun was shining gloriously, I saw flowers, birds. At the station, I was deeply affected by the sight of the first white woman I had set eyes on in four months.
I remember nothing after that. I know that I was taken to Shillong and put in the European hospital. A telegram was sent to Calcutta and before my replacement had even arrived, Narendra Sen had come to see me. After five days in Shillong, I left for Calcutta in a first-class compartment, accompanied by two Sisters of Charity and Harold.
I was admitted directly to the hospital of tropical medicine. I opened my eyes with surprise one morning on to a white room smelling of caramel and ammonia.
In a comfortable chair by the window, a woman was reading. For several minutes, I listened to the whistling of the fans, trying to make out who it was that had just said something, in a voice that was familiar to me, about Conrad's LordJim.
How much I would have given to have been able to draw myself up in the bed and reply that the book was mediocre and did not even begin to rival my favourite book, Almayers' Folly, written in Conrad's youth. So you haven't gone deafl" she cried out in surprise, approaching the bed.
I believe I was brought here when I was delirious. I do beg you to forgive me. Then, reassuming her serious tone: "It's good that you have regained consciousness. We were beginning to give up hope. We must telephone Mr Carr. The poor boy has been asking for news of you every day. I felt alone, abandoned and friendless among strangers, and I was frigh tened of dying. I pictured my death here, five weeks' journey away from my own country, and the vision paralysed me. My face froze with fear.
I want to shave," I lied. I could not tell her the truth. She would not have under stood. Tears continued to flow from my eyes. That I will see New York and Paris again? I cannot remember her reply, even though that day remains engraved in my memory.
Several European doctors came, and then Harold, who sat squeezing my hand for several minutes. So, old chap?
He had a hundred stories to amuse me with. Gertie was flirting with a manager of the Middle Bank, a very well-heeled Bengal Nights fellow who hardly dared kiss her and who took her to the cinema for three rupees and eight annas a seat.
Norinne, mar ried, was growing ugly. A family of poor Anglo-Indians had moved into my room at Wellesley Street. The young husband brought schoolgirls back in the evening and fingered them in his wife's presence.
She, in the last month of pregnancy, scolded him, "Jack, you'll excite yourself again. He shook my hand warmly and stroked my forehead, looking at me intently. I introduced him to Harold. Mr Sen," he said in an insolent tone.