The book is like a diamond sparkling many facettes. I retain the opposition between patriotism and cosmopolitanism – an opposition also noticed by Martha Nussbaum in her article “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism” published in the Boston Review, 1994.
“I am willing,” he said, “to serve my country; but my worship I reserve for Right which is far greater than my country. To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it.”
A woman, Bimala, has been married to Nikhil, a notable, for nine years, when comes at home another man and friend of Nikhil, political radicalist Sandip. Bimala is soon metaphorically nicknamed “Queen Bee”, that is the queen of the national hive. She is tempted by the passion of patriotism represented by Sandip, whereas her husband represents a certain cosmopolitan wisdom, cold and dispassionate. The action mainly takes place at home, and the world outside the home is affected by “Queen”‘s wavering behaviour. She falls rapidly in intellectual and sentimental infatuation for Sandip. However, this leads her to actions she regrets. Attempting to correct the course of actions set, she sends her brother Amulya to death.
Not directly related to this novel, my personal concern is to investigate historically how this opposition came into being. In this book, patriotism is associated with sentiments, infatuation, sensuality, desire, conquering, lying, radical change, concrete and direct principles, partisanship, for the greater good of the community. Cosmopolitanism is associated with truth, reason, dispassionate reflection, abstract ideas, long-term goals, moral standards, stability, for the good of everyone. Where does this cosmopolitan understanding of patriotism come from? And inversely, where does a patriotic understanding of cosmopolitanism as betrayal of one’s homeland, etc. come from?
My contention is that these positions are discursively situated inside modernity, that they are related to nationalism, and that they appeared in the long aftermath of the French revolution.