Rabindranath Tagore: Short Stories

Rabindranath Tagore: Short Stories Summary and Analysis of "Taraprasanna's Fame"


Taraprasanna is a writer, and like many, he is shy and reserved. He doesn't understand social pleasantries, and often misses cues to contradict people who are being overmodest, or to deprecate himself when offered a high compliment. So ill-tuned to social expectations, Taraprassana doesn't even share his writings with the world. The only person who has read them is his wife, Dakshayani. She finds them inscrutable and brilliant, and believes that if the world ever saw these writings published, they would be accepted as massively important.

Dakshayani feels lucky to be married to such a talented writer, but ultimately guilty that she has borne him four daughters and no sons. They know that one day their daughters will marry, and the dowry will come at a great cost to the family. Taraprasanna begins to grow worried about how the family will raise such money, and Dakshayani convinces him that he should go to Calcutta to publish his stories.

It takes some effort, but soon enough Taraprasanna decides that publishing his stories will make him quite rich. He resolves to go to Calcutta, but Dakshayani fears for letting her maladjusted husband go to the city on his own, while Taraprasanna fears exposing his wife to the city's hustle and bustle. Daksyani resolves to send a trusted man from their town with Taraprasanna and gives him detailed instructions for caring for the writer.

In Calcutta, Taraprasanna uses the money from pawning his wife's jewelry to publish his book, and then distributes it to all the bookstores and critics he can find. The critics write glowing reviews of the book that are exactly what Dakshayani expected: they claim it's unintelligible but surely one of the most important works in Bengali to be published. Soon, libraries from around the country write to Taraprassana asking him to send copies of his book, and he does so at his own expense. When he receives word that Dakshayani is pregnant with their fifth child, he sets out to collect all his revenue from the book to return home.

But while his book has received glowing reviews, it has sold practically no copies. He returns home with nothing more than five rupees, and Dakshayani is convinced that everyone cheated her husband out of what he is rightfully owed, blaming as well the man she sent to watch over Taraprasanna. They must scrape together money for the midwife. During labor, Dakshayani quickly grows ill, and declares that if her daughter survives birth, she be named after Taraprasanna's book. When the daughter is born, Dakshayani says her name, and promptly dies.


A morbid and mysterious tale, "Taraprasanna's Fame" is another one of Tagore's stories which takes the form of fable or parable but seems to have no clear message. What are we to make of this author who writes lauded stories no one understands, whose newborn daughter is named after a collection of stories, yet whose wife dies shorting after giving birth to that child? Aside from the shock ending, this story isn't a particularly dour one, nor do we get the sense that there's really all that much at stake. If Tagore seems to be making any sort of claim with this story, it's that life is strange and fate is arbitrary.

And while Tagore's characters are typically deeply enmeshed in society, here he portrays a family that is largely aloof from the world. Taraprasanna doesn't know how to conduct himself in social situations, and Dakshayani is convinced that her husband's obscure stories will make him fabulously rich. Even more so, when Taraprasanna heads out for Calcutta or complications arise during childbirth, the couple superstitiously relies on amulets and potions.

One possible reason for all of these baffling elements is that Tagore is skewering the public's perception of what the life of a writer is like. It's comical that Dakshayani would think Taraprassana's stories would enrich them, and the harsh reality of the public's response to their publishing turns the family's world upside down. Likewise, the critics prove out of touch, construing Taraprasanna's stories as crucial entries in the Bengali canon precisely because they can't understand them. In this, perhaps we can see some of Tagore's own skepticism of the burgeoning Bengali literary canon, which he contributed too and was considered the pinnacle of. Tagore staunchly wrote about the prosaic, and here we can sense a bit of his disdain for the haughtier, more pretentious literature that his peers produced.