Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was the youngest son of Debendranath Tagore, a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, which was a new religious sect in nineteenth-century Bengal and which attempted a revival of the ultimate monistic basis of Hinduism as laid down in the Upanishads. He was educated at home; and although at seventeen he was sent to England for formal schooling, he did not finish his studies there. In his mature years, in addition to his many-sided literary activities, he managed the family estates, a project which brought him into close touch with common humanity and increased his interest in social reforms. He also started an experimental school at Shantiniketan where he tried his Upanishadic ideals of education. From time to time he participated in the Indian nationalist movement, though in his own nonsentimental and visionary way; and Gandhi, the political father of modern India, was his devoted friend. Tagore was knighted by the ruling British Government in 1915, but within a few years he resigned the honor as a protest against British policies in India.
Tagore had early success as a writer in his native Bengal. With his translations of some of his poems he became rapidly known in the West. In fact his fame attained a luminous height, taking him across continents on lecture tours and tours of friendship. For the world he became the voice of India's spiritual heritage; and for India, especially for Bengal, he became a great living institution.
Although Tagore wrote successfully in all literary genres, he was first of all a poet. Among his fifty-odd volumes of poetry are Manasi (1890) [The Ideal One], Sonar Tari (1894) [The Golden Boat], Gitanjali (1910) [Song Offerings], Gitimalya (1914) [Wreath of Songs], and Balaka (1916) [The Flight of Cranes]. The English renderings of his poetry, which include The Gardener (1913), Fruit-Gathering (1916), and The Fugitive (1921), do not generally correspond to particular volumes in the original Bengali; and in spite of its title, Gitanjali: Song Offerings (1912), the most acclaimed of them, contains poems from other works besides its namesake. Tagore's major plays are Raja (1910) [The King of the Dark Chamber], Dakghar (1912) [The Post Office], Achalayatan (1912) [The Immovable], Muktadhara (1922) [The Waterfall], and Raktakaravi (1926) [Red Oleanders]. He is the author of several volumes of short stories and a number of novels, among them Gora (1910), Ghare-Baire (1916) [The Home and the World], and Yogayog (1929) [Crosscurrents]. Besides these, he wrote musical dramas, dance dramas, essays of all types, travel diaries, and two autobiographies, one in his middle years and the other shortly before his death in 1941. Tagore also left numerous drawings and paintings, and songs for which he wrote the music himself.
Born in 1951 in London, William Radice has pursued a double career as a poet and as a scholar and translator of Bengali, and has written or edited nearly thirty books. His volumes of verse include Strivings (1980) and Louring Skies (1985) for Anvil Press and The Retreat (1994) for the University Press Ltd. in Dhaka. His translations include Selected Poems and Selected Short Stories of Tagore for Penguin Books, both of which have been reprinted many times. In 1994 his Teach Yourself Bengali was published by Hodder Headline. He also translates from German, and his publications in India include a translation of Martin Kämpchen's The Honey-Seller and Other Stories (Rupa, 1995).
He wrote the libretto for Param Vir's widely performed chamber opera Snatched by the Gods (1992, based on Tagore), and in 1995 he translated Puccini's Turandot for English National Opera. His translation of Tagore's play The Post Office was performed as a theatre in education project in 1993, directed by Jill Parvin.
He has given numerous lectures and poetry readings in Britain, India, Bangladesh, North America, Germany, Mallorca and other countries in Europe, and has been given literary prizes in both India and Bangladesh. From 1998 to 2002 he wrote a fortnightly "Letter from England" for the Statesman in India, and has also contributed regularly to BBC Radio 2's early morning "Pause for Thought."
In 1988 William Radice joined SOAS, University of London, as Lecturer in Bengali, and from 1999 to 2002 was Senior Lecturer and Head of Departments of South and South East Asia. After a year's sabbatical 2002-3, he has returned as Senior Lecturer, concentrating on research and the supervision of research.
His latest books are Rabindranath Tagore: Particles, Jottings, Sparks: The Collected Brief Poems (HarperCollins, Delhi, 2000; Angel Books, London, 2001), Myths and Legends of India (The Folio Society, London, 2001; Penguin India, 2002), Gifts: Poems 1992-1999 (Grevatt & Grevatt, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2002), Traces of My Father, a translation from the German of Sigfrid Gauch's autobiographical novel Vaterspuren (Northwestern University Press, Illinois, 2002), A Hundred Letters from England (Indialog Publications, Delhi, 2003), Poetry and Community: Lectures and Essays 1991-2001 (D.C. Publishers, Delhi, 2003), and Beauty, Be My Brahman: Indian Poems (Writers Workshop, Kolkata, 2004).
He is married with two daughters, and his main home is in Northumberland. For more information, please visit