I think the most interesting aspect of humanity is relationships. Friends, siblings, lovers… whatever it may be. Some books bring that aspect of life to life and explore it very well. One such book is The Fifth Man by Bani Basu. It revolves around Ari, who is Neelam’s husband. Neelam’s hysterectomy changes their relationship between her and Ari. Fate conspires to bring the duo, their college professor Mahanam and Ari’s ex-girlfriend Esha together, testing their relationship even further. Continue reading “Book Review: The Fifth Man, by Bani Basu, translated by Arunava Sinha”
About the author:
Rabisankar Bal is a Bangla poet, short story writer and novelist. He has been writing for over thirty years and is a journalist by profession. He passionately follows literature, music, painting and world cinema, and has started writing his next novel.
About the translator:
Arunava Sinha translates contemporary and classic Bengali fiction into English. This book is his seventeenth published translation.
From the back-cover:
Exhumed from dust, Manto’s unpublished novel surfaces in Lucknow… is it real or is it fake? In this dastan, Ghalib and Manto converse, entwining their lives in shared dreams. The result is an intellectual journey that takes us into the people and events that shape us as a culture.
My thoughts on the book:
I don’t know what got me attracted to this book. Perhaps it was the praise I heard from one of my friends, who said in her review: “Have you ever been burnt by a book? Been trapped between its pages, gasping for air? Have you felt that if you read any more you’d die; but if you didn’t read, you’d die anyway? If you’ve not had the pleasure of such a pain, read Dozakhnama.” Urmi, I can’t help but agree with that assessment. Maybe even the tagline “Conversations in hell” was also something that piqued my interest, and I took up this book as one of my reads for this year.
This is literary fiction, and a translated one at that. Originally written in Bengali by Rabisankar Bal, and now translated by Arunava Sinha, this book is evocative in its poetry. This book is the conversation between two great poets, Saadat Hassan Manto and Mirza Ghalib and the conversation happens after their death, from their graves, and the story itself is the supposed translation of one of Manto’s unpublished novels.
If you are fond of only stories that move very quickly, or read just for fun, perhaps this book might not be that appealing. If you are willing to let the words seep into you and make you wonder, then this book would do that. When I first got the book, I opened to a random page and found a small verse, that translated to this:
I shall not give up on my desire if it remains unfulfilled
My heart will either reach my lover, or leave my body
When I am dead, dig up my grave, you’ll find my shroud
Covered in smoke, for the fire is still burning inside
That verse pushed me in to the book. For this verse can even be indicative of the passion of a writer as it does to a lover here. As I read on, I found many such verses, couplets and poetry that I could understand as a poet and a writer. Another couplet translates to say:
Like a kite, my heart had once
Yearned to fly to freedom
Oh indeed, it still does. It still does. This book is life and poetry in one single symphony. The lives might be Manto’s and Ghalib’s in the story, but yet there is something I could understand. This shall be one book I treasure and re-read.
Author: Rabisankar Bal
Translated by: Arunava Sinha
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publishers: Vintage Books/Random House India
Price: INR. 399
(May 2nd, 2013)
About the author:
Jo Nesbø is a Norwegian author and musician best known for his detective fictions involving Detective Harry Hole. Other than this series, he has also released one children’s fiction novel titled Doktor Proktors Prompepulver.
My thoughts on the book:
It’s been a little while since I’ve wanted to read this series. I think one of my friends at ALOP published a review on this and it caught my attention primarily from the title, and then from the author’s name, which was new to me. I didn’t think that he’d be a Norwegian author though. This book, originally in Norwegian is translated by Don Bartlett into English.
When Inger Holter, a Norwegian mini-celebrity is found murdered in Australia, the Norwegian police send their man Harry Hole (pronounced as Har-ry Hoh-lay and not the hole meaning orifice) to aid in the investigation headed by their Australian counterparts. He’s teamed up with Andrew Kensington to do that. The investigation seems to have to be on the Aussie police’s terms, as put quite direct by their chief, McCormack.
What follows is a mixed bag. I don’t quite feel this can be classified as a “thriller”, more of a whodunnit. The first part is too slow, with lot of different angles, cultural background and such pushed in. I like that there is a little humor in it, like the scene were Kensington kicks a Tasmanian devil into the rose bushes and makes a humorous retort to the dog’s owner. But the leads and the way Kensington seems to take, based purely on a “sense” felt odd. (Though later it might not as much.)
The book picks up pace towards the end, thankfully. Pace aside, the narration has been good. Though informative of Australian culture, I think that background was a little too much. A decent read, with a somewhat predictable storyline and protagonist, and some humorous piecing together under the influence! I enjoyed especially the ending.
Title: The Bat
Author: Jo Nesbø
Translator: Don Bartlett
Genre: Crime Fiction
Price: INR. 350
(April 25th, 2013)
About the editors:
Native of Cherrapunjee in Meghalaya, Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih has published three poetry collections in Khasi and three in English besides other books in the two languages. He received the first North-East Poetry Award in 2004.
Robin Singh Ngangom, native of Singjamei in Manipur has published three collections of poetry and his works have appeared in leading journals and anthologies both in India and abroad. He received the Katha Translation Award in 1999.
Both live presently in Shillong, where they work at the North Eastern Hill University as reader in the English department and teacher of literature respectively.
My thoughts on the book:
Reading poetry is no walk in the park. What the poet conveys to the reader might be just direct to the point, or hold layers, depth that might point to a whole other concept. So we can interpret both ways at times.
What this anthology, Dancing Earth, brings to the table is unity in diversity, just like the country. These are poets from different parts of North East India, across time and across languages. Translated from regional Indian languages, like Bengali, Hindi, Assamese and Manipuri (which I’ve heard of) and some like Kokborok and Chakmae (which I hadn’t heard of till now), into English, these are poems filled with native imagery.
From this collection, few poems really touched my heart.
There is a poem, “Dot” by Nini Lungalang who is an English teacher in Nagaland. This poem is one of my favorites from the book. It’s like a story in a poem, one which many of us might be able to relate to. The poetess sees her neighbors quarreling over their ancestral land, as to who gets a particular piece, which is insignificant in the bigger scheme of things. The poetess then wonders if we look to take ownership of lands till the centre of the earth which is a dot, who owns that dot? Other than seeing this happen in my family and wondering the same, it also makes me think, if the world continues to fight over insignificant things, finally who takes the responsibility for its well being?
It was a pleasant surprise to me to see Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s haiku collection in the anthology. A haiku is three lines that are meant to show something. His did. One about a rainbow was particularly poignant. It told life as it is. Another one about city folk going to office resonated very easily with me.
Ananya Guha writes a poem about God. It’s not something everyone would agree on perhaps, but I liked the thought. To me, it had depth too. I particularly liked the play on words in the first line, “A petal trembling falls”, which to me not only showed the fall of the petal but put forth a waterfall too. The poem tells me God is there, in the hardest of times, showing us the calmness. We just have to believe in it to see it.
A couple of verses from Bevan L Swer’s poem The Bitter Sunrise also echoed. It reminded me of me at times. Alone, silent, brooding though I know there are people who are alike at heart and willing to talk to me, listen to what I want to say, relieve me of at least a little part of my sorrowful burden.
There are poems in this collection that make me return to them again, re-read them, try to understand them and search them for depth where there might just be simplicity. That to me, a poet, signifies power in poetry. There are also poems that don’t feel like poems, few that I skip over and forget. There is even a prose. But the collection doesn’t leave me disappointed. It makes me think, if the translations have got such power in them, how beautiful the original verses would have been.
Title: Dancing Earth
Editors: Robin Singh Ngangom and Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih
Genre: Poetry Anthology
Publishers: Penguin India
Price: INR. 350
(April 3rd, 2013)