The 1940s was the decade of crisis and change in Bengal. The years that began with famine, war and devastation ended with rioting, death and mass migration as a land, its people and its soul were partitioned. In the darkness of terrible human tragedy, however, twinkled significant triumphs of human achievement. Bengali intellectualism flourished on either side of Independence, and new landmarks were erected in thought, art and aesthetics. The bhadralok, a multilayered social category comprising educated professionals, translatable literally as ‘gentlemen’ and as ‘middle class’ in socioeconomic terms confronted change with a mix of radicalism and reaction. The loftiness of the resultant intellectual product was in inverse proportion to the drastic fall in the general conditions of life. Littérateurs and artists broke out of the elitism of their predecessors to experiment with new forms, and thinkers and theoreticians adapted the philosophical debates of 20th century Europe to contemporary Indian circumstances. This book is an account of the Bengali bhadralok’s distinctive creative response to historical circumstances that remain without parallel in the rest of India in the years both before and after their passage. It evaluates aesthetic resurgence in socio-economic perspective, following its many twists and turns, and mapping its essentially non-conformist, liberating and egalitarian spirit. It will be of great interest to students of social crisis and cultural change, and everyone seeking to appraise artistic responses to historical realities.