Jawaharlal Nehru & Romain Rolland: French-Indian Correspondence

“Jawaharlal Nehru and Romain Rolland: French-Indian Correspondence” a lecture by literary history specialist Bernard Dufresne as part of the new series "The Other Thought” French-Indian Encounters on Creativity and Innovation”.

New Delhi, 23 June 2016

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of French Nobel Laureate for Literature Romain Rolland, the Institut français en Inde presented a lecture by literary history specialist Bernard Dufresne on “Jawaharlal Nehru and Romain Rolland: French-Indian Correspondence”.

In the framework of the new series, “The Other Thought”, which explores French-Indian encounters on creativity and innovation, this lecture, organized in collaboration with the Romain Rolland Association (France), was held on Thursday, 23rd June 2016 at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti Bhawan.

Romain Rolland


Romain Rolland (1866-1944), French dramatist, novelist, essayist and idealist, established lasting relationships with both Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, which are well-documented and continue to inspire studies to this day.

Less documented are his ties with Jawaharlal Nehru, which are no less interesting. Witness to the disastrous failure of the World War I peace treaty,

Romain Rolland was very keen to associate with Pt. Nehru in his initiatives in his quest for peace in Europe. It was a lasting relationship: they met several times after the first meeting in Switzerland in 1926, and exchanged many letters, most of which are preserved at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. 30 years after their first encounter, Pt. Nehru was to write the introduction to the volume of “Correspondence between Rolland and Gandhi”.

Also noteworthy is Nehru’s appreciation of the dedication of Madeleine to her brother, Romain Rolland, for whom she served as translator. Nehru recognized the essential link she thus created with Rolland. Her role – largely unnoticed in France – was, however, duly recognized by both Nehru and Gandhi; after meeting Rolland in Switzerland in December 1931, Gandhi wrote a beautiful text in "Young India" on Madeleine’s devotion to her brother.

Bernard Dufresne


Bernard Dufresne is an avid reader of Romain Rolland. Over the years he has collected and studied most of his works. He has also searched for documents on him in Indian libraries and archives, which were not known in France. He is distantly related to Rolland.

Having lived for 11 years in India, during various periods from 1984 to present-day, Dufresne was struck by the strong correlation between Rolland’s approach to the flow of life and the Indian one. He has also studied in depth the relationship between Rolland and various Indian personalities including Gandhi, Miraben, and now Nehru.

Dufresne participated in the “Romain Rolland and India” conference organized by Romain Rolland Association and the Indian Embassy in Paris (17th June 2015, Sorbonne University). On this occasion, he highlighted the astonishing similarities between two great dramas of Rolland, viz. Danton and Robespierre, and the Bhagavad Gita. He has recently published an article for the quarterly magazine “Les Cahiers de Brèves” about the relationship between Romain Rolland and Jawaharlal Nehru, titled “The Foreword by Nehru and Other Forgotten Letters”. Dufresne is also preparing a conference on the close relationship between Rolland and Gandhi.

The Other Thought: French-Indian Encounters on Creativity and Innovation

The Other Thought: French-Indian Encounters on Creativity and Innovation is a stimulating new series of events conceived by the Institut français en Inde.

Well-known as a top tourist destination, France also notched up third in global rankings for innovation. This position was earned through not only persons working in the scientific and technological fields but also artists and creators involved in bringing about change and imagining the future.

The new series thus comprises debates, lectures, meetings, and encounters with artists, writers, intellectuals, policy makers, economists, historians, translators, curators, scientists and all those aiming to give a fresh impetus to our current way of thinking. The idea is to create a new path to the future together, in another way, i.e. through “The Other Thought”.

Last modified on 24/06/2016

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