Monday, March 8, 2010

Pride without prejudice

The Final Question (Ravi Dayal and Penguin, Rs 350) by Saratchandra Chattopadhyay is a translation of the Bengali classic, Shesh Prashna (1931), by members of the department of English, Jadavpur University.

Set in a middle-class Bengali milieu in Agra in the early decades of the 20th century, this late novel reinforces Saratchandra’s enduring relevance. The story revolves around Kamal, the love-child of an English tea planter and a Bengali widow. Like Rabindranath Tagore’s Gora, Kamal embodies the spirit of contrariness.

Driven by reason rather than idle romanticism, she hits out at the comfortable numbness of Bengali domesticity, upsetting closely held beliefs and biases. She is perceived as brazen by women, and adored by men, secretly or otherwise. From a writer who led a nomadic existence, got to know a bizarre assembly of characters, and admired Herbert Spencer, Charles Dickens, Balzac and Bernard Shaw, this is a tale that shimmers with ideas but never fails to entertain. The full complexity of Kamal’s life and times comes alive in the brilliant introduction by Supriya Chaudhuri. Arup Rudra and Sukanta Chaudhuri provide valuable editorial notes, while Amitava Das adds a useful preface.

Full report here Telegraph

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