Accepted Paper:

'Refugee from Nazi Germany': Alex Aronson, his "western eyes" and Rabindranath Tagore  

Author:

Gautam Chakrabarti (Freie Universität Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will attempt to locate Alex Aronson's European sensibilities and his self-perception as “a very private person”, while in Rabindranath Tagore's cosmopolitan but also rural idyll, against the backdrop of an emerging intercultural educational paradigm that was anchored in Indic universalism

Paper long abstract:

In 1933-45, a number of German and Central European Jewish scientists, artists, writers and musicians had come to India. One of these unwilling émigrés, Alex Aronson (1912-95), came to India in 1937, from London, to teach English at Rabindranath Tagore's path-breaking world-university at Santiniketan, the Viśvabhārati, and left behind a trenchant and perceptive study of the Nobel Laureate, "Rabindranath through Western Eyes", as a mark of his respect for and gratitude to the latter, before moving to Israel and settling in Haifa. Aronson's book and his other work, "Brief Chronicles of the Time", were composed of interesting vignettes and observations on Tagore's 'Weltanschauung' from a rationalist but not drily-analytical perspective, which, nevertheless, remained somewhat unimpressed by the 'East'. However, Aronson seems to have responded positively, even sentimentally, to the emotional depth of Tagore's creative personality, which was palpably rooted in a spiritual-metaphysical sense of Hinduism. This makes one feel that the former's Jewish sensibility—exemplifying early-20th-century secular European Jewish engagement with Indic spirituality—was keyed to respond to Hindu mysticism and ontology, despite his rejection of the ritual-cosmogonic aspects of Eastern religiosity. The proposed paper will attempt to locate Aronson's European sensibilities and his self-perception as "a very private person" (from his letter to M.Kämpchen, 30th April, 1990), while in Tagore's rural idyll, against the backdrop of an emerging intercultural educational paradigm that was, despite the presence and active contributions of numerous Euro-American visitors, quite anchored in Indic universalism, which can be said to have been the core of Tagore's rooted cosmopolitanism.

Panel P05
Imagining India in Central and Eastern Europe