In continuation of the series “To Talk About Bangla Books”, this is the second one.
Today, I shall talk about a book that has introduced me to modernist Bangla novels. First published in 1946, it’s a commendable effort from the writer to write a difficult novel, such as this, in breathless stream of consciousness narrative.
The complete book is divided into four parts and spans only a few hours. The family (father, mother and two brothers, Nilu and Bilu) was engaged in Indian politics with the Congress National Party i.e. Gandhiji’s Quit India Movement. For this reason Bilu and his parents were arrested. Bilu was sentenced to death for sabotaging government assets. Nilu became the witness against his elder brother, thus betraying his family, solely for his own political ideals.
Hence just few hours before the hanging, each character’s thought process is depicted with scientific precession and thus we have four chapters for four characters.
Name of the chapters:
1. Cell for Death-sentenced- Bilu.
2. First Division Cell- Father
3. Women’s Cell- Mother
4. Jail Gate- Nilu
The fractured narrative, trailing off to old memories and coming back to current state several times within even a small paragraph has reminded me of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. But, I don’t want to compare the quality or techniques of these two books, for both are different and have their unique essences (Actually, I have found this one a lot more enjoyable and relatable, perhaps because it is written in my mother tongue).
Lastly, I want to say this that internal monologue in Bengali seemed natural to me than in English and without this book, I would never have known that Bengali, at times can sound so sweet and ear-pleasing upon employing stream of consciousness narrative.
To give you a small glimpse of the narrative, I am translating a part from chapter 3.
Everyone is sitting around me silently in the dark ─now if even a needle drops, the sound can be heard. Only the hand-fan is making a continuous humming… A beetle is flying. Sounding whirr, whirr…! It drops down with a ‘thak’. It rises again, flies, again bangs onto something and drops. Haven’t flown till now, not yet; still not yet. Now when it’ll fly, I’ll count one, two, three till ten. If it drops down before I reach ten, every way of saving Bilu will become impossible. And if I can complete my count before the insect drops, then I am sure, God will somehow save my Bilu. Have to count quickly; as quickly as possible for me. It flies now ─one, two, three, four, five, six, seven─ damn! It has dropped down. What have you done, O Almighty!