Kalpana Bardhan’s anthology is a comprehensive introduction to modern Bengali literature in translation. The chronological arrangement of these two volumes encompasses the breadth of modern Bengali literature and presents an overview of the major authors, works, genres, periods, movements and so on. The focus, understandably, is on shorter pieces—poems, short fiction, and non-fiction—and the rich collection in the two volumes offers a real tour de force across the literary geography of modern Bengal. There are familiar faces and surprises from both Bengals, spanning across class, gender, region and religion—well-known authors like Bankim, Tagore, the three Bandyopadhyays, Jibanananda, Buddhadeva Bose, Premendra Mitra, Nazrul, Rajshkhar Basu, Samsur Rahman, Sankha Ghosh, Sunil Gangopadhyay; and there are entries for authors who do not fit under the general rubric of the ‘popular’—Dinesh Das, Lokenath Bhattacharya, Benoy Majumdar, Mohammad Rafiq, Syed Waliullah, Kamal Kumar Majumdar, Akhtaruzzaman Ilias.
And yet there are curious omissions—Shibram Chakrabarty, Narayan Gangyopadhyay, Ramapada Choudhury to name only a few—that forces one to wonder about the possible reason for their exclusion. The editor has made judicious selections from existing translations and has translated a substantial amount to cover the gaps in literary history. The quality of translation, except in a few minor cases, remains consistently good, and the two volumes together offer a highly readable oeuvre of modern Bengali literature.