It Does Not Die: A Romance
2ndPublisher: University of Chicago PressFormat: Paperback
Precocious, a poet, a philosopher's daughter, Maitreyi Devi was sixteenyears old in 1930 when Mircea Eliade came to Calcutta to study with herfather. More than forty years passed before Devi read “Bengal ”“Nights,” the novel Eliade had fashioned out of their encounter, onlyto find small details and phrases, even her given name, bringing backepisodes and feelings she had spent decades trying to forget. “It ”“Does Not Die” is Devi's response. In part a counter to Eliade'sfantasies, the book is also a moving account of a first love fraughtwith cultural tensions, of false starts and lasting regrets.Proud of her intelligence, Maitreyi Devi's father had provided herwith a fine and, for that time, remarkably liberal education — andencouraged his brilliant foreign student, Eliade, to study with her.“We were two good exhibits in his museum,” Devi writes. They were also,as it turned out, deeply taken with each other. When their secretromance was discovered, Devi's father banished the young Eliade fromtheir home.Against a rich backdrop of life in an upper-caste Hindu household,Devi powerfully recreates the confusion of an over-educated childsimultaneously confronting sex and the differences, not only betweenEuropean and Indian cultures, but also between her mother's and father'sview of what was right. Amid a tangle of misunderstandings, between aEuropean man and an Indian girl, between student and teacher, husbandand wife, father and daughter, she describes a romance unfolding in theface of cultural differences but finally succumbing to culturalconstraints. On its own, “It Does Not Die” is a fascinating storyof cultural conflict and thwarted love. Read together with Eliade's“Bengal Nights,” Devi's “romance” is a powerful study of whathappens when the oppositions between innocence and experience,enchantment and disillusion, and cultural difference and colonialarrogance collide.Maitreyi Devi (1914-1990) was a poet and lecturer, founder of theCouncil for the Promotion of Communal Harmony in 1964 and vice-presidentof the All-India Women's Coordinating Council. Her first book of verseappeared when she was sixteen, with a preface by Rabindranath Tagore.Her publications include four volumes of poetry, eight works on Tagore,and numerous books on travel, philosophy, and social reform.“In two novels written forty years apart, a man and a woman tell stories of their love. . . . Taken together they provide an unusually touching story of young love unable to prevail against an opposition whose strength was tragically buttressed by the uncertainties of a cultural divide.”—Isabel Colegate, “New York Times Book Review”“Recreates, with extraordinary vividness, the 16-year-old in love that she had been. . . . Maitreyi is entirely, disarmingly open about her emotions. . . . An impassioned plea for truth.”—Anita Desai, “New Republic”“Something between a reunion and a duel. Together they detonate the classic bipolarities: East-West, life-art, woman-man.”—Richard Eder, “New York Newsday”"One good confession deserves another. . . . Both books gracefully trace the authors' doomed love affair and its emotional aftermath."—Nina Mehta, “Chicago Tribune”
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