Friday, March 23, 2007

post office

Well, I borrowed Tagore's Post Office and read it on the train on the way home, it probably took about twenty minutes. It's about a small boy called Amal whose adoptive father keeps him indoors because he is poorly. When Amal discovers a new Post Office has been erected by the King he is thrilled:

AMAL: Say, what's going on there in that big house on the other side, where there is a flag flying high up and the people are always going in and out?
WATCHMAN: Oh, there? That's our new Post Office.
AMAL: Post Office? Whose?
WATCHMAN: Whose? Why, the King's surely!
AMAL: Do letters come from the King to his office here?
WATCHMAN: Of course. One fine day there may be a letter for you in there.
AMAL: A letter for me? But I am only a little boy.
WATCHMAN: The King sends tiny notes to little boys.
AMAL: Oh, how splendid! When shall I have my letter? How do you know he'll write to me?

I also borrowed a PhD thesis about Tagore that has shown me he is someone I should actually have heard of, so I feel a bit foolish. He was the first Asian (the way people in the US & UK define 'Asian' and Australians generally don't, i.e. he was Indian) to win the Novel Prize for Literature. Looking forward to gleaning more from that.

I also learnt a little more about the Parthenon in Grange Road by general dipping into the Sands and McDougall directory. In 1919 it was the home of Mr. Louis Smith. Ten years later the listed resident was Mrs Louise Smith. I don't know if Louis changed his sex or what. More bizarre possibilities cross my mind. I think I need to go to 10 Grange Road. Though the Smiths probably don't live there anymore.


lucy tartan said...

I have a student this semester who promises well in the setting all kinds of new benchmarks department. She has already misspelled her own name - Louise - on the record sheet and the first assignment. Instead she wrote Louse.

Anonymous said...

Americans also use 'Asian' to refer to East Asian or Southeast Asian peoples.


Anonymous said...

Oh, my last comment was probably not clear: Americans don't use 'Asian' to refer to Indians.


David said...

Lucy: I too have a funny Louise story, about someone in an administrative position doing unpopular things having her name misspelt 'Lousie' on a memo, but I couldn't repeat it here.

Ara: Hmm, yes, I probably shouldn't have even included that irrelevant element, it was just that I was paraphrasing the (American) PhD thesis factoid re: the Nobel prize bit and I didn't want to trouble myself over translating this into something meaningful for my own territory i.e. presumably he was the first Indian, but was he the first of non-European extraction?

Anonymous said...

Tagore was even the first non caucasian writer to win the NP for Lit... The first Chinese author to attain that distinction was Gao Xingjian in the year 2000...
I was in the Hamilton Library today, at the Uiversity of Hawaii at Manoa, where they shelve books in Indian languages on the "Asian" and "Eastern" floors, so there you go. Continent, sub-continent, "its all good...". Of course, according to Paul Keating, Australia is a part of Asia, right?

-Richard Forster

David said...

Richard, this is just another can of different worms, as the term 'caucasian' is so fluid and can include Indian people as well. As I said, in any case it's just a minor element, my point really being he was non-European but accepted/ lionised in western society, and most importantly in this context, his plays were being performed in a house in Grange Road Kew in 1927.

Personally if I thought there was a place called Asia I would have no problem including Australia in it, but I don't. Is New Zealand part of Asia?

Adam said...

Tagore, I think, is the national poet of Bangladesh - he lived in what is now modern Bangers. I think he even wrote their national anthem. Anthologies of his verse turn up in second-hand bookstores a lot. I've never bought one, though.