Bengal Nights: A Novel

by Mircea Eliade

Other authorsCatherine Spencer (Translator)
Paperback, 1995



Call number



University Of Chicago Press (1995), Paperback, 184 pages


Set in 1930s Calcutta, this is a roman à clef of remarkable intimacy. Originally published in Romanian in 1933, this semiautobiographical novel by the world renowned scholar Mircea Eliade details the passionate awakenings of Alain, an ambitious young French engineer flush with colonial pride and prejudice and full of a European fascination with the mysterious subcontinent. Offered the hospitality of a senior Indian colleague, Alain grasps at the chance to discover the authentic India firsthand. He soon finds himself enchanted by his host's daughter, the lovely and inscrutable Maitreyi, a precocious young poet and former student of Tagore. What follows is a charming, tentative flirtation that soon, against all the proprieties and precepts of Indian society, blossoms into a love affair both impossible and ultimately tragic. This erotic passion plays itself out in Alain's thoughts long after its bitter conclusion. In hindsight he sets down the story, quoting from the diaries of his disordered days, and trying to make sense of the sad affair. A vibrantly poetic love story, Bengal Nights is also a cruel account of the wreckage left in the wake of a young man's self discovery. At once horrifying and deeply moving, Eliade's story repeats the patterns of European engagement with India even as it exposes and condemns them. Invaluable for the insight it offers into Eliade's life and thought, it is a work of great intellectual and emotional power. Translated into French in 1950, Bengal Nights was an immediate critical success. The film, Les Nuits Bengali, appeared in 1987.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member nyclibkat
Supposedly fiction but is actually an autobiography of his affari with Maitreyi Devi - see "It does not die" in which she tears him to pieces.
LibraryThing member heinous-eli
I have not yet read Devi's "It Does Not Die" but I have read what I could find on the Eliade/Devi romance. Much of this book is Orientalist nonsense, vacillating between utter worship of all things Indian and condescension towards the same. Maitreyi is portrayed rather unflatteringly; she is
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obviously an accomplished and gifted young woman, yet all Alain sees is a fetishized brown goddess. More oddly still, his last line is a hope to see Maitreyi again, and yet he rejects even her attempts to speak to him via telephone. All in all, an engaging read, but repulsive on several levels.
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Original publication date


Physical description

184 p.; 8.52 inches


0226204197 / 9780226204192
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