Travel writing, in the Bengali literary tradition, has an extraordinary appeal. From first-hand accounts of perilous/adventurous journeys to faraway lands to more comfortable ones nearer home, Bengalis love them all. They also love completely fictional narratives as long as they offer the ‘real’ feel of travel. It is not surprising, therefore, to find an overwhelming number of Bengali writers engaging in such writing. A quick survey of published travelogues suggests that their quality vary substantially; some are wonderful pieces of literature, while others, often like the Lonely Planet ones, are typically touristy and dull. Now, we also have a qualitatively different kind of travel writing where writers turn to travel, either real or fictional, to say something more; travel, then, is deployed to build on the larger plot/theme a writer wishes to develop. Nabaneeta Dev Sen, a successful and widely travelled Indian (Bengali) academic and litterateur, does precisely this in her novella, In a Foreign Land, By Chance. This slim book may be called, if you like, a (fictional) travelogue, but certainly not of the regular kind.
February 2018, volume 42, No 2