The city of Calcutta, like a heaving Leviathan is forever pulsating with energy carousing in its veins. This timeless vitality has been captured in famous novels of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but the trend has continued into present times through a perceptible fascination with the dynamism between the place and its people.
Let me begin by saying right away that Mahanadi is a brilliant piece of novelistic work that combines anthropology, ethnography, history and fiction rolled into one. It is a significant addition to a growing number of new fiction in India that sees human lives and relationships as being inextricable from their surroundings. But one does not really care about fictional categories when confronted by a novel like Mahanadi.
Bhai, there are maybe three or four thousand thieves and robbers and murderers and rapists here, at most. But outside, there are millions…An honest man is safe here, outside, his life is hell.’ This is how a beggar, convicted for no reason in the novel Imaan, shudders at the thought of being released from prison, only to confront corruption, violence, sexual predation and killings outside.
Someone who has not read Joy Goswami, in the original Bengali or in translation, would have missed the seminal compositions of one of the world’s finest poets. It is a daunting task to translate Joy Goswami, and it is no less daunting to review the brilliant translation of his book. Since I had not read Goswami’s trilogy in the original, I approached the translation with an open mind. In fact, it is Sampurna who has introduced Joy Goswami to the western world.