neither sinner nor saint


On a moonlit January night in 1941, Subhas Chandra Bose, a leader of India’s independence movement—as influential in his time as Gandhi and nearly as mythologized in his homeland today—embarked on a perilous, clandestine journey. Frail from a hunger strike begun during his eleventh stint in British prisons, Bose was sent home to recuperate—to get just well enough, that is, to be arrested once again. Seeking to take advantage of Britain’s involvement in World War II, he knew he could not languish any longer in prison. So he worked out a bold escape. Disguised as a North Indian Muslim, he left his family’s home on Calcutta’s Elgin Road and sneaked out of the city in the direction of Delhi, where he caught a train to Peshawar—journeying on, under the name Orlando Mazzotta, to Samarkand, Moscow, and Berlin. It was April 1941, and Bose arrived in Nazi Germany, ready to launch a revolution. Bose had traveled extensively in Europe in the 1930s as a spokesman-diplomat advocating for India’s emancipation. This second European exile, however, was born out of greater urgency, even desperation. He went to Germany believing that Britain would lose the war and that an alliance with the Axis powers would give India a seat opposite Britain at the postwar negotiating table.

more from Sudip Bose at Bookforum here.