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Debashish Banerji, in his impressive new study…, presents Abanindranath neither as nationalist hero nor Orientalist comprador but rather a free agent engaged in varied cultural exchange…. When he chose to make his illustrious forbear the subject of his book, he was able to infuse the aridities of postmodernism with the clarity and warmth of personal narrative….
Banerji’s book acquires a special importance because of his attempt to theorise the creative experiments of an artist exposed to a variety of influences in a colonial metropolis. The concept of ‘alternate nation’ that he builds around the corpus of Abanindranath’s works, is a stimulating idea based on a provocative hypothesis… Banerji’s erudite study is a fascinating narrative of how Abanindranath always defied the constrictions laid down by such theories, either by his admirers or detractors.
It was comforting to read Debashis Banerji’s ‘The Alternate Nation of Abanindranath Tagore’. The book is a much needed addition to the existing body of literature on the artist and his words. It locates the figure of Ababnindranath in a post Enlightenment social complex, and goes on to discover his multi-layered engagement with the world around. What is even more important is that it does this without resorting to the mainstream framework of Cultural Nationalism on hand, and on the other to the existing communitarian critiques of the same.
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