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New book retells greatest Bengali short stories

Arunava Sinha

New Delhi : When penning a book of Bengali short stories, it is only natural to begin with Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Kabuliwallah,’ the iconic tale of friendship between an Afghani dry-fruit seller and a 5-year-old girl, that continues to be recited till date in homes and classrooms across Bengal and beyond.

Award winning translator, Arunava Sinha who has taken upon himself the task of translating Bengali literature into English and make it accessible to a wider audience, has compiled a selection of what in his opinion are the 21 ‘Greatest Bengali Stories Ever Told,’ in the form a book of the same name.

Although the book opens with one of Tagore’s stories, Sinha’s selection reflects a thoughtful yet personal curation that gives equal prominence to almost all the literary stalwarts that Bengal has ever produced and also those who remained unheard of.

There is Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s rare combination of sharp societal observation and high emotional quotient along with the subaltern studies of Bibhutibhushan and Tarashankar Bandopadhyay.

Satyajit Ray’s introspective lense finds resonance with Sunil Gangopadhyay and Nabarun Bhattacharya’s deep plunges into the darker recesses of the heart and mind.

And with writers of the likes of Buddhadeva Bose, Premendra Mitra, Ritwik Ghatak, Mahashweta Devi and Ashapurna Debi, there are also narratives laden with political, social and gender consciousness.

However, Sinha insists that it is “not a potted history of the Bengali short story” and the choice has not been determined by any form of critical sieving or literary era.

“These are, simply, stories I have loved and that have made a deep impression on me,” he writes in the introduction, titled “My love Affair with Bengali Stories” to the book.

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