Following the lead of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in her wonderful translation of Mahasweta Devi's Chotti Munda and his Arrow (2003), the dialogue of this Bengali novel has been rendered into a very distinctive, colloquial English creole. The experiment pays off handsomely. The work achieves a rare immediacy, and Bengal becomes a weird, thickly textured place. Baer gives us jagged dialects of regional orature never before heard; this roughness captures the unheimlich of Trashankar's jungle situations with transcendent dread.
(Henry Schwarz, Georgetown University)
Of the great modern Bengali novelists, Tarashankar is probably least known for his writerly skills. Rather, his rural novels have found a lasting place in the canon by the sheer density of ethnographic richness and the vivid and earthy realism of his characters. Ben Baer's amazing translation of The Tale of Hansuli Turn brings to a wider readership a slice of untouchable life in Bengal at a moment of crisis. In the process, it also reveals the surprising sophistication of Tarashankar's own efforts at cultural translation. This is a world of Indian subalternity rarely captured before in English.
(Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University)
Wow! There is no other word for this monsoon flood of a novel, bursting the banks of respectability, urbanism, caste, education and linguistic decorum. Nothing in the rages, lusts or profanities of its characters fazes its intrepid translator. Through the style andcreole he creates, Bengali language and literature leap into a wholly new sound-world, with rhythms that subaltern communities worldwide - and friends of those communities - can dance to joyously.
(William Radice, SOAS, University of London)
About the Author
Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay (1898--1971) was one of India's foremost authors and wrote in Bengali. A participant in the Gandhian movement, he was jailed as an activist by colonial authorities in 1930. Over the course of forty-two years, he wrote more than 50 novels and 200 short stories, more than 40 of which have been made into films. He received the Rabindra Puraskar Award, the Jnanpith Award, and the Sahitya Academy Award, India's highest literary prizes, and the Padma Bhushan honor for distinguished service to the nation.
Ben Conisbee Baer is assistant professor of comparative literature at Princeton University.