I am a fan of Arunava Sinha. While I can’t comment on his translation skills as I have not read the originals of what he translates. I am a big fan of choices he makes for translation. In this short story compilation, he has chosen some of the best Bengali stories. In the introduction of the book, he says these are the Bengali stories that he personally likes or rather he finds himself a part of the story. As a reader, you connect very strongly with some stories, they touch a chord and you become a part of them, so those stories become a part of you.
In this translation, you can see that personal connect of Sinha with the stories he translates. Each story is a gem. While it begins with the popular Tagore’s story Kabuliwala, there are many little know stories from well-known Bengali writers that would take you through myriad emotions. Each character would remind you of someone you know or have met.
Bibutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s story Einstein and Indubala leaves you confused if it is a real story or a figment of author’s imagination. It makes Einstein so much more human than we think him to be.
Sanjib Chattopadhyay’s The Marble Table reminds you how certain pieces of furniture can become a part of the personality so strongly that you can not see the person and the furniture separately. How they age together and how they remind the future generations of each other. I could imagine people in my family in familiar settings – like a snapshot. Urvashi and Johny by Mahashweta Devi is touching, to say the least. In Udayan Ghosh’s Swapan is Dead, Long Live the Dead you understand the pathos of a mother who does not want to believe that her son is gone. Satyajit Ray’s Two Magicians tells you the story of human connect that goes beyond the realms of the world as we understand it.
India by Ramapada Chowdhury needs to be read by anyone who thinks charity is the way to help people out of poverty. Through the setting of a train stopping at a mofussil town somewhere in Bihar – you see how we convert hard working people into beggars. It would really make you think if you should give that coin to the beggar outside that temple or not. If you can not read this whole book, read this story.
News of a Murder by Moti Nandy is hilarious, to begin with. But then you realize the impact of news, how it can impact the perfectly normal relationships. One bad incident and it spoils the world of those who have just read the news. It would make you think how seriously should you take the news you read. Sunil Gangopadhyay‘s story Post-Mortem also changes your perspective on your behavior. And how it can potentially impact others. I loved the way the story ended. Not revealing it, though.
Each of these Bengali stories is a gem. It would impress you with its story, its characters, its message, its thought and the art of storytelling. The range of the stories touches so many emotions that at times it would put in touch with some parts of you that may be in passive mode. Characters would stay with you as if you know them personally.
I would say it is like presenting the Bangla literature in a nutshell. It is like understanding the range of human psychology.
Thank you Arunava for giving us such a lovely compilation.
Go, read it.