What does it mean to be a dalit in Bengal, that is, in a culture where Tantric, Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi/Islamic thought have mingled and occasionally clashed for centuries? This collection of stories goes some way towards answering the question, though I have to record my disappointment that no women writers are represented among the sixteen authors translated in this volume.
Vignettes is the English translation of Dristhipaat, a Bengali novel published first in 1946, penned by Binay Kumar Mukhopadhyay whose nom de plume, Jajabor, apparently means, as this reviewer found out, ‘a person whose status in society is lower than of a homeless’.
The name of Sunil Gangopadhyay (1934-2012) has become iconic in contemporary Bengali literature, and his passing marks the end of an era. A prolific writer, he will be remembered for his poetry, novels, stories and essays, but most of all for his ability to bridge the gap between elite and popular culture.