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With the wording of his advertisement for the new Tagore tide, The Crescent Moon, a collection of poems around the parents-child relationship, Meyer evoked appropriately for Christmas a veneration for Mary, the mother of Jesus. During the war years of and , no new books of Tagore appeared. But saw four new Tagore books being published by Wolff, three, three, and in no less than seven new books appeared and in addition to the eight-volume Gesammelte Werke Collected Works which also contain two newly translated texts.

However, around the same time, in August ,[9] inflation started to set in, and it culminated in a catastrophe. Until the beginning of , books continued to be bought in sufficient numbers. At the height of inflation, though, in , Wolff published hardly any new books because of the astronomical cost of paper, printing and binding.

As a matter of course this financial catastrophe is of the most disastrous consequence also for the German publishing firms. With the consolidation of the economy and the revaluation of the Mark in , Wolff and his associates realized with amazement that all of a sudden Tagore was no longer a favourite with the German public. The firm failed to sell off a huge stock of Tagore books.

The country made an attempt to overcome its spiritual and cultural crisis, which was inflicted on a people humiliated by a lost war. When Rabindranath Tagore visited Germany a third time in , the Kurt Wolff Verlag was in the process of dissolution. As an aesthetically sensitive person, he appreciated art and classical music.

Living in style, he savoured the finer things of life; though one wonders whether the haste and intensity with which he worked did not deny to him a full appreciation and enjoyment of literature and the arts. Leisure and contemplation were not for him. The style of his letters, which rarely deviate from their business focus, did not allow him the time for a personal remark. The brand of spirituality which Rabindranath Tagore embodied and continuously propagated must have appeared mysteriously strange and inaccessible to Kurt Wolff.

After Tagore, he did not publish any other book of Indian spiritual writing except for the Sermons of the Buddha. Wolff had no taste for what must have appeared to him an airy transcendentalism and a pompous and exotic demeanour. Generally, Wolff wished things to be clear-cut and pragmatic. Wolff obviously did not rate Tagore very highly. This comes through in almost all pronouncements Wolff made or which are attributed to him. It was indeed a rather weak affair. Above all, at the time, it pleased me from a selfish point of view, as a great boost for a young publishing business. I certainly did not begrudge the dear old Indian ascetic his Prize, but it was not of much significance: one could as well have chosen another author.


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With some embarrassment he rose to the defence of Tagore. It was not the poet and writer Wolff appreciated in Tagore, but it was his charismatic personality. Kurt Wolff maintained a correspondence with Rabindranath Tagore and his son Rathindranath. The correspondence is business-like in tone and content from both sides. Questions of copyright and accounts, of translation, publishing new books and their sale were discussed. It contains numerous financial balance sheets.

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Rabindranath and his son desired to purchase or receive as gifts a rather large number of German books for the budding Visva-Bharati in Santiniketan. Thus, attempts by German-speaking Bengalis to translate the poet directly from the original, and attempts to bring out editions by other German publishing houses, were foiled. Helene Meyer-Franck, especially, was a victim of this policy. The haste with which Wolff pursued his enterprise of publishing Tagore was much in evidence throughout. The correspondence mentions a number of times that the royalties of this book were to be made over to the Deutsche Kinderhilfe Help the Children Fund in Berlin and Vienna.

They had lunch with him and were taken on a drive through the city in the afternoon. This was followed by a dinner with Wolff. Select audience. While being his host, Kurt Wolff had an opportunity to observe this exotic author at close quarters. Similar impressions can be found in almost every article or memoir describing encounters with Tagore.

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Wolff then proceeded to relate an unusual episode in great detail. In the afternoon Tagore wanted to take rest. He refused the offer of a bedroom or a chaise longue. Instead, he preferred to remain in the dining-room, but alone. Everyone withdrew. After some time, though, Wolff returned on tiptoe to fetch a notebook he needed urgently. He continues:. I saw — although I could not believe what I was seeing — that Tagore had remained in the same position in which he had conversed for hours, with his large, beautiful eyes wide open.

I saw him , but he did not see me, even though I was less than ten yards away. I gazed at him for a long time and grasped the fact that his open eyes were seeing nothing […] I realized that he was resting by withdrawing […] from his outer existence into an inner one. I could not grasp what I was seeing and made no attempt to find a rational explanation for it; I knew only that I was experiencing a marvel and that this sublime man from the East had an existence on two levels […] Here was a man […] who could draw energy from mysterious sources inaccessible to Westerners.

This significant episode left a deep impression on Kurt Wolff. Quite obviously, he did not understand experiences of a psychic or spiritual nature. Rathindranath records yet another meeting between poet and publisher, namely on 15 June. Rabindranath had taken the night train from Darmstadt to Munich on 14 June. He and his companions spent a few hours there with Kurt Wolff and lunched with him before proceeding to Vienna.

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They never met again. Wolff was already out of business when Tagore visited Germany in This was the end of a relationship between a publisher and his author which from the beginning was symbiotic — centred around the business of getting books published. Not one private remark is known by Rabindranath or his son Rathindranath about Kurt Wolff as a person. The reason was a lack of understanding of the business practices in Western countries, particularly the commercialization of book publishing which, compared to India, was and is more pronounced there.

After all, it was in Germany where Tagore, as an author, was most successful in Europe. Yet Germany was too far removed and communication too difficult for the Tagores to intervene very much. This happened in the radio essay from which I have already quoted several times. The reading material available to still this hunger for Eastern philosophy and poetry was all from the distant past until, in the years just after the war, a contemporary figure suddenly emerged: a poet, a cosmopolitan, a religious man who nonetheless sought no converts, a moral authority who did not moralize. He came bringing poems and verses which offered themselves freely, demanding nothing in return; possessed of a new innocence, they remained outside the sphere of ideology, vessels of human wisdom that introduced a fresh breath of Eastern beauty.

As people read, they felt in the presence of something magical and beyond reason.

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Touched by waves of a secret, mysterious force, they could sense that the author of these poems was of that so rare phenomenon, a case in which creator and creation are one, parts of a single whole. There is something miraculous about this, which gives the figure of the poet an almost messianic significance. This is the origin of the Tagore success created by Kurt Wolff. Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla Originally in English. Aufzeichnungen und Erinnerungen der Zeitgenossen , ed. Walter Verlag, , p. Rabindra-Bhavan archives. The spelling is left uncorrected.

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