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D H A K A T R I B U N E S U N DAY, J U LY 7, 2 0 1 3


Poetry RAINDROPS ON SUNROOF

Blind Adrian Husain

Editor Zafar Sobhan Editor Arts & Letters Khademul Islam Assistant Editor Tamoha Siddiqui Artist Shazzad H Khan

Amy Huffman

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yes of the dead stare in his eyes where he hunkers on the kerb hewn out of stone yet living: in a tunic, grimy yellowed, but still rich

Seat reclined, feet resting on dashboard, I am comforted by the light patter of liquid landing overhead. I stare up at a twilight sky painted in shades of gold and red quickly dissolving into darker hues. From a failing corner, the sun still catches, glints against iridescent ovals. In that moment, one drop expands. Its life transforms from cloud’s discard to planetary body, a vision complete with reflective rings and comet trails. n

in his loss in a way that we cannot be – hoarding a wisdom mined from patience his weight leaden yet ground down to a lightness: touch of a leaf, trunk of a tree.

Amy Huffman lives in Florida. She has published six books of poems

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Adrian Husain is one of Pakistan’s leading English language poets.

as i verb the noun these days

rifat islam esha

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onderful is a tired adjective i will let it be and put multiple silences and breathe them in smiles half, restless, curt sharp, such and sweet

rifat islam esha is a young bangladeshi poet.

i will thank you over slices of aam and stolen bites of chocolates you ask me not to devour-are adjectives that important? in time, adverbly, you will know what i mean, noun.

Badray Munir (Translated by Khademul Islam) Let it rain all night long – all day and all night. Who wants the sun’s face – insolent, irreverent? These insane birds yearning for light, Employees of sunshine – who are they? Let it rain all night long – all day and all night. Huge mounds of waste, ill-bred faces Have piled up high in one’s mind; The copper pot scarred with green gashes – Let the rain scrub it clean! Let the rain wash Time’s bedcover clean. Let it rain all night long – all day and night.

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Announcement

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Let It Rain

Arts & Letters will publish an Eid Supplement instead of its regular August issue.

Who wants sunlight’s color, the proclamation of hues? Why the sun, what’s this insistence That pierces Night’s stubborn re-birth? My whole life let it be the rainy months of Ashar, Srabon; Till the end the rain’s numbing fall – The rain’s willing downpour Let it tumble-upend rinse out all bluster. Let it rain all day and all night Let it rain my whole life.

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Badray Munir is a Bangladeshi poet.

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FLASH fiction Death

Fahim Masroor

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t came fast when it came after the oxygen was turned off and the sound of raspy breathing drawn in long rusty gasps and expelled with a short ‘fuhh’ sound filled the room… hnhheea hnhheea were the inhalations…a tremulous pause a flutter of the eyelids… then fuhh fuhh fuhh… as the doctor silently left the room his children stood by the bedside not looking at each other and a little half-grimace half-smile drew back his lips and bared the dying man’s teeth immediately afterwards the tension went out of his body the cords in his neck went slack as if the strings of the puppet had been cut and he was gone… what had that little smile meant that he saw light what had the grimace meant that he saw none? n

Fahim Masroor

is a writer and translator.

Lydia Davis: Extraordinary Stories Matt Leibel

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o, short story: During my Junior year at U.C. Berkeley, a writing professor (Ron Loewinsohn) hands me a story by Lydia Davis, the latest winner of the Man Booker International Prize. The story is simply titled “Story”. Despite the name, it isn’t like any story I’d been used to. The characters are unnamed. There are no real scenes. We are given very little conventional information about the characters. And yet, the story is devastating in its effect. This is due at least in part to the formal, almost mathematical precision of her craft: there is a singular logic to the writing that feels both inevitable yet surprising, and often, like Beckett, quite dryly funny. Here, the woman at the center of “Story” muses about the man who lies to her about an affair: “The fact that he does not tell me the truth all the time makes me not sure of his truth at certain times, and then I work to figure out for myself if what he is telling me is the truth or not, and sometimes I can figure out that it’s not the truth and sometimes I don’t know and never know, and sometimes just because he says it to me over and over again I am convinced it is the truth because I don’t believe he would repeat a lie so often.” Notice the repetitions, the circumlocutions, the way sentence seems to almost spiral back onto itself, like a dog chasing its own tail. This is the work of a mind working itself out (even as it, perhaps, deludes itself): a kind of mental calisthenics we all engage in, but which few writers can truly capture. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis includes about 200 stories, a great many of which are extremely, almost comically, short, and often only arguably “stories”. One of my favorites is 19 words long – and that includes the eight-word title, “They Take Turns Using a Word They Like”. Here it is: “It’s extraordinary,” says one woman. “It is extraordinary,” says the other. The subtle italics are great here. Within two brief lines of dialogue, it’s impossible not to hear these women’s voices, to have a sense of who they

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are, their aristocratic bearing, their haughty, puffed-up pretension – all delineated in the implied enunciations of a single word. In addition to writing stories (and a single novel, “The End of the Story”), Davis is an award-winning translator (Madame Bovary, Swann’s Way, etc.). She is also (like Thomas Bernhard the Austrian novelist and playwright) an accomplished piano player. Music and translation frequently appear as subjects in her fiction, but I think it goes deeper: her stories, in all their concision, precision, humor, sadness, oddness, and intelligence, are really about the structure and music of language itself. And it’s on that level, the music of the language, that Davis has long been a cult hero not just for me, but for a whole generation of younger American writers such as Rick Moody, David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers and others who’ve dabbled in Davis-like fictional approaches. Here’s hoping that her work (and the strange short, essayistic brand of fiction she’s pioneered) can now get the even broader worldwide attention it deserves. Because Lydia Davis is extraordinary. n

Matt Leibel’s

fiction, humor, and reviews have appeared in a variety of online and print journals.

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Brief Histories Has the great Indian novel been displaced in the firmament?

Rajni George

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Rajni George, is ex-fiction and poetry editor at The Caravan, now is a freelancer.

here is something delicious about the classic 500-oddpage Indian novel that is lost to the iPad reader: the sheer weight of the book, almost a kind of trophy you bear in the dense race to the end; fat and glossy, on your bookshelf, never mind whether you dust your Booker winners or re-read them. The joy of both over-achiever reader and writer, the big Indian book has always been our signature statement. We do it so well: VS Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas (1961), Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1980), Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (1993), Arundhati Roy’s A God of Small Things (1997) and Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies (2010) denote a brief history of Indian Writing in English (IWE) and carry our legacy of huge, sprawling books. We explained India through them, and were happy to do so. But today’s writers are not always stressed about whether people have the full context, even want them to do the work. “They tell me India is an underdeveloped country,” begins Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel (1993), going on to retell modern Indian history through the mould of The Mahabharata in 423 pages. It’s a sentence and model you’d be hard-pressed to find in an Indian novel today; books

stories; this, to me, is a sign of Indian publishing’s coming of age, its first proper engagement with cosmopolitanism, where great stories have less to do with social, geographical or cultural contexts than with the more universal themes that affect the human condition,” says Somak Ghosal, of Mint Lounge. Indeed, a writer can no longer set out to write the great Kolkata or Kashmir novel. In today’s abundant writers’ marketplace there are already several contenders, and the reader they are writing for knows where Shopian is. In The Collaborator (2010), Mirza Waheed wrote of a young boy co-opted into helping the army count the bodies of dead Kashmiris; not the likeliest of great Indian novels, but a moving upclose account. “There’s a slow democratization taking place at least at the level of theme and approach and style, if not in terms of the class of people who write this fiction,” says writer Anjum Hasan, books editor at The Caravan. “I don’t know if there’s a correspondence between a novel that is ‘big’ in the sense that it tries, allegorically or through its scope, to capture all of India and a book that is ‘big’ in the sense that its author receives large advances and much fanfare accompanies its arrival. Perhaps considering them the same thing is or has been part of the problem in the way we think of literature.”

New books in the last five years or so are writing smaller narratives confident in speaking only for their small part of the experience “In a sense, this is a second generation going back to where writer Raja Rao came from; Rajmohan’s Wife, etc., were smaller narratives, early on,” says Nilanjana Roy, literary critic and author, whose How To Read In Indian, a collection of pieces on reading and writing IWE is forthcoming. “My cynical side says this is market-driven.” She refers, of course, to mass-market fiction that is multiplying post Chetan Bhagat. Local publishing can now support a local author, without them having to go abroad to sustain themself, she adds. “The danger is writing a book that loses its audience, that is too small. But it frees you up from the demands of the big canvas book.” y own list of ‘great Indian novels’ form an alternate history: Anita Desai’s In Custody (1984); Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines (1988); Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia (1990); Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (2008); Rahul Bhattacharya’s The Sly Company of People Who Care (2011). Some of this is not even obviously or particularly Indian, except perhaps in terms of taste. Perhaps the quieter Indian novel has always been there; it is the pendulum swing of personal taste, popular demand and writerly range which decides when a Sea of Poppies is highlighted over The Shadow Lines. n

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like Siddharth Chowdhury’s Day Scholar (2011), set in the middle-class, college-going Patna’s Kadam Kuan neighbourhood, increasingly bring the lens up close to non-gated community life; in this case, through the Vicky mopeds, Brilliant Tutorials and Golden Eagle beer of small-town ‘80s India, in 160 pages. New books in the last five years or so are writing smaller narratives confident in speaking only for their small part of the experience – or that of Guyana, for that matter. Also, while a blockbuster book still headlines publishing lists, publishers are also doing more mid-listers without banking on one big book to bankroll the rest. Recent releases like Jerry Pinto’s tale of Catholics in Mumbai and a mentally afflicted mother, Em and the Big Hoom, and Tabish Khair’s How To Fight Islamic Terrorism from the Missionary Position, a witty satire around immigrants in Denmark, are narratives from within communities which have been published and released as ‘big’ books, with the appropriate accompanying reviews and launch attention and sizeable print runs. Similarly, Difficult Pleasures, a collection of writer Anjum Hasan’s short stories, is getting the kind of attention a novel traditionally received as the literary breadwinner. “The general perception of the traditional ‘big’ Indian book has shifted to those telling slighter, less obviously, Indian

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The Arabic Booker: A quick trip for ‘authenticity’?

Waqar Ahmed

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tories, visas, and sponsorships lure transmigrant laborers to the Gulf. Often, successful stories— whether relayed directly from the Gulf or through newly prosperous relatives on the ground—have the most pull. But they mask harsh living conditions that greet transmigrant laborers once they start employment in their host countries. In Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk, his ground-breaking second novel which recently won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (the ‘Arabic Booker,’) we meet Issa/Jose, who contemplates a return to his father’s country, Kuwait. Issa/Jose is the product of a marriage between a Filipino maid and a rich Kuwaiti journalist. He has two names: his given name, Jose, and, Issa, the Arabic name he must adopt in Kuwait. Issa/Jose has spent most of the first eighteen years of his life in the Philippines. He has only his mother’s stories to illuminate Kuwait. But his mother’s accounts are clouded by her affair with the son of her Kuwaiti host family. Her stories function as metaphor for the promises of a better life that seduce transmigrant laborers to the Gulf. Each mention of her duties as a maid is quickly smoothed over by captivating details of the courtship. His mother’s accounts persuade Issa/Jose to move to Kuwait, but the fate of a guest worker welcomes him when he arrives in the “awaited paradise.” He looks more Filipino than Kuwaiti, and with his father dead, lacks the cover necessary to make a soft landing in this foreign country. He does not find the Kuwait of his mother’s letters; Issa/ Jose is an unwelcome foreigner in his father’s country. At first glance, Mr. Alsanousi’s novel fits neatly into an emerging subdivision of modern literature. This branch is characterized by the author seeing fit to write a novel about a foreign land with which he has had a one-off cultural encounter. Troubling, but a critically acclaimed trend: PEN/Malamud Award recipient Nell Freudenberger meets a Bangladeshi on a plane, interviews her family, visits Bangladesh, and decides her

novel, The Newlyweds, ought to have a Bengali protagonist. Pulitzer Prize finalist Dave Eggers takes one trip to Saudi Arabia in preparation for his A Hologram for the King. Canonized American writer Saul Bellow takes not a single trip to Africa before writing his somewhat racist Henderson the Rain King. Mr. Alsanousi traveled to the Philippines just once before writing The Bamboo Stalk. The work as such may suffer from problems of authenticity. Yet what the novel might lack in verisimilitude, it makes up in its humanitarian ambition. In the The Bamboo Stalk, a disheartened Issa/Jose decides to leave Kuwait, return to the Philippines, and make a life for himself in his mother’s homeland. Many transmigrant laborers in the Gulf—Filipino, Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani—do not enjoy the same luxury of choice. Guest workers, men and women alike, such as Issa/Jose’s mother, are often subject to what Andrew Gardner in his City of Strangers: Gulf Migration and the Indian Community in Bahrain refers to as “structural violence.” This violence against the guest worker by their host company sponsors takes the form of salaries withheld for several months, inhumane living conditions, and extended confiscation of the worker’s passport, so that he remains a prisoner in his host country. With his novel, Mr. Alsanousi takes on the plight of the transmigrant worker and aims to shed light on the cruelties of the sponsorship or kafala system in a manner that none of his countrymen has to date. n

Waqar Ahmed is currently nearing completion on a novel and a collection of short stories. He grew up in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

The landscape of post-literary Peru Theodore

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o tropical fruit in the title,” says Rushdie, “Tropical animals are also problematic.” Fine advice but so long in coming. And so easy to give for someone whose fatwa-powered career took off in perfect congruence with the breaking in America of a sophisticated and beautifully crafted (French) wave of borrowed post-colonial guilt. Write? In this day and age? Really? Don’t wait to be crippled by advice. For the rest of you in a rush, fiction is made of disease. The fiction that is later made into movies is made of characters and plot and mild disease. Are tropical diseases fair game? Of this Rushdie dreams no philosophy. But what of pre-colonial disease? The Dropsy Diaries. You’re welcome, Ms. Morrison. As someone once said, “Wouldn’t a title just make it worse?” Disease is unpleasant. Movies make money. Bring a date to a movie and you soon find yourself with a family, living in a new house. Finally, book clubs, the last gasp of printed consumption, are identity swap meets where you go only when your marriage is over and after you’ve been thrown out of every bar and knocking shop. No serious person is satisfied with fictions centered on American and British nostalgia for the exotic. Few writers, other than Nabokov and Delillo, understand how exotic the United States are in themselves. No country is more exotic than Great Britain (in Theodore’s experience.) Unfortunately, America remains the best market for rum mango fruit. Rushdie’s wave beached nothing less than the massive whale-corpse

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genre of guilt-lit. Readers baptized in its backwash are no longer readers. They become the read-to. The read-to only want to hear about exotic identities because they are waiting their turn. They are as brutal as they are rich as they are polite as they are antsy. But is this breeding? What of them is worthy of continuance? You have been invited to their homes to be sold swimming pools, tales of neurotic urban klatches, nostalgia for their favorite decade or whatever else they are bored of themselves. The reason book groups spring up in their cat-piss apartments is home-field advantage to make the sale. Fiction isn’t about identity. Fiction is about suspense, deception, the decision which darkens the scruple. It is a lie seemingly made up on the spot but is in truth well-calculated. The best fiction is born along with great potential for malevolence. Theodore has a wonderfully literalminded neighbor. “I don’t read fiction,” says Neely. “It’s all made up.” Neely has no time to spare for fiction. His disease is real. Long ago, when Theodore aspired to a sort of belle lettrisme, he was often urged to write “something about Peru.” Thankfully, the internet was invented and such necessity evaporated. Let inaction be as defining as action. Silence is better than golden and should only be met with applause. Don’t let’s write about ourselves. Especially if we’re bent on sincerity. Put the cat outside to piss. Spare the furniture. Spare us. n

Theodore is a consultant living in Geneva.

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Letter from America Mahmud Rahman power, below-the-surface resentments and jealousies get channeled into revenge. This bleak novel is certainly worth reading if you want to see what civil war might look like in a country like ours. For another taste, I hunted down one of Khadra’s crime novels featuring Superintendent Llob: Morituri translated by David Herman. I found myself in 1990s Algiers where Llob investigates the disappearance of the daughter of a city kingpin.

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Noir Algeria

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MahmudRahman is the author of Killing the Water and the translated novel Black Ice. Both were published by Penguin India.

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remain preoccupied with Algeria. This spring when the police battled Jamaat supporters on the streets and war crimes opponents rallied at Shahbagh, a lot of easy talk began to fly around about civil war. Having witnessed 1971, I shuddered at the thought of Bangladesh plunged into another war. To imagine what such a war might look like, I searched for fiction that would bring me to ground level. Algeria came to mind. In the 1990s, the banning of Islamists triggered a war that led to the entire country living in daily peril, to the deaths of thousands, to many writers and artists choosing exile instead of death. My search led to a writer I had encountered once before: Yasmina Khadra. Three years ago I journeyed to an artists’ residency in Montana to work on my novel. I was in a tiny town, 6000 miles high in the mountains, the nearest bookshop thirty miles away. With reading my only entertainment, I treasured the books left behind by past residents. They included The Attack by Khadra where an Arab surgeon in Israel discovers his wife among the victims of a suicide bombing, only to be horrified when he realizes she was the perpetrator. Yasmina Khadra is the pen name of Mohammed Moulessehoul. He had been an army officer for 36 years. When the military demanded to oversee his writing, he adopted a pseudonym made up from his wife’s names. Disturbed by the war, he moved to France and later revealed his identity. In his fiction, he explores the Algerian war, probes the psyche of fanaticism, and with incisive language plumbs the depths of Algerian society. I started with In the Name of God, translated by Linda Black, the French original published in 1998. It traces the descent of the village of Ghachimat into a cauldron of horror. It opens with three young men, friends from childhood. There is a bit of tension among them since all are attracted to the same girl, the mayor’s daughter. Other characters include Issa, a former collaborator with the French who lives with daily humiliation, his mechanic son Tej, the wily dwarf Zane, and Dactylo who writes letters for the public. After Sheikh Abbas returns from prison, self-proclaimed men of Allah begin to take control. Elders are manipulated and cast aside, the ruins of an ancient temple are destroyed, and those not on the ‘right path’ are slaughtered. In the hands of those with new-found

he opening page pulls you in as Llob is about to start a new day: “Minna snores within range of my displeasure, thick like a rancid paste, a tip of breast unconcernedly deployed at the edge of the sheet. Far gone the time when the most innocent of touches would arouse me sexually. That was the time when I had an orgasm close to the surface of the skin; the time when I could not dissociate pride from virility, positivism from procreation. Today my wife, my poor beast of burden, has regressed – she holds no more attraction than a trailer lying across the road, but at least she’s there when I am afraid in the dark.” Before long, both daylight and dark will make Llob tremble. Driving with him through Algiers, you can tell more will be revealed than simple binaries of good police and bad Islamist terrorists. “I tear along toward Hydra, the most chic neighborhood in the city. Hydra, in these competitive times, is reminiscent of a forbidden city. Never has a fundamentalist’s beard ruffled its mimosas, never has the smell of gunpowder violated the fragrances of its felicity. The nabobs of the land live there as pensioners, with well-stocked paunches, their eye riveted on the prospect of profit. The wars of Algeria possess this impenetrable singularity that the belligerents are grossly in error as to whom their enemies are.” With Llob we circulate in a fascinating world of repellent power brokers, weary policemen, drug dealers, pimps, and fanatics. Many dismiss crime novels as mere thrillers filled with plot twists. But there is no wall separating a mystery from a work of art. Khadra’s Llob novels, like those of other masters of the genre such as Jean-Claude Izzo or Raymond Chandler, are literary creations where puzzle solving is combined with richly evoked settings, memorable characters, and

Many dismiss crime novels as mere thrillers filled with plot twists. But there is no wall separating a mystery from a work of art. Khadra’s Llob novels, like those of other masters of the genre such as Jean-Claude Izzo or Raymond Chandler, are literary creations where puzzle solving is combined with richly evoked settings, memorable characters, and crafted language. crafted language. I reflect on a soldier turned novelist and wonder why there are so few. In Bangladesh, I only know of one officer, Shabbir Ahsan, who published the novel The Peacekeeper. Of course there is also the general who fancied himself a poet, but the book memorably tied to his name is not his own but from one of his ex-wives: Bidisha’s Shotrur Shathe Boshobash. Given the high drama in our society – the startling crimes, the twisted intrigues – where is our fictional Superintendent Llob? I eagerly wait for the arrival of our own literary noir. n

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DHAKA BOOKS

meet

Sabreena Ahmed

Gantha, a women writers’ forum in Dhaka, recently organized a discussion of two books: Dawn of the Waning Moon by Jharna Rahman and Bornandho Raat O Diary by Monika Chakraborty.

Jharna Rahman and Monika Chakraborty at the Gantha event.

Drama Review Ikhtesad Ahmed

Ikhtesad Ahmed in London finds a Pulitzer Prize-winning play to be a dud

Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced is the story of Amir, a successful New York corporate lawyer of Pakistani descent. He has renounced his Muslim faith, going as far as to change his surname to ‘Kapoor’, to become the model American. His prosperous, serene life begins to unravel when he is urged by his wife Emily to acquiesce to his nephew Abe’s request of assisting an unjustly accused imam. She is an up-and-coming artist whose liberal views have made her better understand Islam and embrace its rich heritage by adopting it in her artwork. Amir reluctantly accedes to Abe and her appeal, thereby jeopardising his career. His assumed identity comes apart at the seams when Emily and he host a dinner party for Isaac, an influential Jewish art-curator she is wooing, and his African-American wife Jory, coincidentally Amir’s colleague who benefits from his misfortunes. The backdrop is provided by Abe embracing extremism as his uncle gives in to what his forsworn faith supposedly expects of him. The estimable Bush Theatre, committed to its vision of providing ethnic minorities with a podium, mounts a unique theatrical experience under the admirable direction of Nadia Fall with an unconventionally structured stage and extraordinary scene changes. The view is of a section through a building, with the walls on either side of a couple’s livingroom having fallen off, inviting the audience to peer into their personal drama unfolding. Light and sound are used brilliantly to set the tone and denote the passage of time, and provide the tapestry of a busy cityscape. The script, however, panders to American notions about Islam and immigrants and leaves a lot to be desired. The tragic hero’s fall is rife with clichés (e.g. an angry Muslim arguing with a meek, rich Jew, who ends up being the villain of the piece in a society that promotes Jews; said angry Muslim beating his wife when he discovers her infidelity) and nonsensical contradictions (e.g. the young nephew changes his name to be accepted by Western society while simultaneously being proud of his religion and heritage; the wife concludes that she is naive despite being the assured voice of reason throughout the play). A simple story is compounded by the ensuing confusion, and by tired dialogue and a lack

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Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam discussed Jharna Rahman’s book, a collection of English translations of her Bengali short stories. He said that Ms. Rahman is a modern Bengali writer who knows how to draw psychological portraits, with a pronounced skill in etching details. He further pointed out the pitfalls of cultural translation, when, for instance, in Bengali we say ‘increase the air conditioner’ when in reality it should be ‘the temperature has to be adjusted’. He commended the editor Dr. Niaz Zaman for publishing the volume from writers.ink. Faridur Rahman, a translator and also a reviewer at the event, found colloquial Bengali words difficult to translate into English. He added that Ms. Rahman’s gift for words made her stories have a poem-like quality. The second half of the session focused on Monika Chakraborty’s Bornandho Raat O Diary, also a collection of short stories. Writer and critic Jahanara Nowshin reviewed the book, saying that Chakraborty was a promising writer. She singled out the story “Gandhari” for special mention, adding that the writer needed to be careful with her word choice in Bengali. The second reviewer of the book, Nurun Akter, also chose “Gandhari” as the best story of the collection. She said that the stories titled “Blue Moon” and “Nirjone Nirobota” revolved around the themes of women’s empowerment and autism respectively. The best feature of Chakraborty’s writing is that she knows how to write to the point and how to turn a simple incident of life into a story with a twist. n

of nuance. The theological discourse debates minutiae using trite arguments, which at times are unintelligible. The play is too short, making it abrupt and overly dramatic in order to desperately drive home points which are not developed fully, or are given voice by unsympathetic characters. It promised much, but laboured in vain, turning out at the end to be some archetypal, didactic, embarrassingly whiny Muslim diaspora drama. Winning a Pulitzer has elevated Disgraced to the equal of works by Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee. The resultant hype seems to have influenced British theatre critics too – otherwise a grounded, sane bunch. But pace The Guardian, these largely middleaged, white men, at pains to be politically correct, have bent over backwards to review it favourably. But we in South Asia and the Muslim world should view this work through the right lenses: this in no way can be ‘our’ Long Day’s Journey into Night, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or Seascape. Not even close. The West’s celebration of this slick mediocrity is merely patronizing condescension. Should we accept this on the same terms as they do, it means we accept their pat on the head.

Cast: Hari Dhillon as Amir Kirsty Bushell as Emily Danny Ashok as Abe Nigel Whitmey as Isaac Sara Powell as Jory. n

Sabreena Ahmed teaches English at BRAC University.

Ikhtesad Ahmed is an aspiring writer.

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Serialized Story

Samira - Part 3 Back in time Awrup Sanyal

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Awrup Sanyal is an ex-advertising professional and a fiction writer.

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he breakfast fiasco had changed many things for Samia. She had left the table and gone back to her room. Her father went back to his newspaper. The uneasy lull lasted all through the day. Lunch wasn’t a family affair either; Samia skipped it altogether. In the room that day memories came flooding back. Those days when she saw the world sitting atop her father’s shoulders. She would wait eagerly for the weekends. Eschewing the company of cousins and neighbourhood kids, she would wait for the surprises that her father would have in store for her. Unless he was overloaded with work or had to go out of Dhaka, he would have one new surprise or the other for her on the weekends. It was with her father that she had explored Old Dhaka, street food, Haji’s or Fakruddin’s biriyani, the national monuments and the history of the country, the Sangshad Bhavan – it never had ceased to fascinate her, that building with its circles and triangles cut out in its walls – Dhaka University, where her father had spent some of the most intense period of his life, where he would announce with pride, “See that, Samira, you are now standing in front of the Oxford of the East!”, and how it had been the center of resistance during the movement against Punjabi authoritarianism and led the fight for freedom during the later Liberation War. Sometimes, it would be of a more exotic kind when the three of them would go out of Dhaka for a ride in their red Toyota Publica. That car had a special place in her heart, since much of her ‘firsts’ revolved around it. Though in those days every other car was a Publica; theirs, she thought was unique, because it was one of the few red ones on the streets and her father, normally a frugal man, had splurged on a great sound system specially shipped from Japan. He was a music buff, mostly into old-time Bangla film songs, when things were black-and-white in many ways. At times, if the mood was on him, he would slide cassettes of Nat King Cole, Paul Anka, Pat Boone and Judy Collins into the player and hum along. She smiled at the memory: he wouldn’t recognize the music Samira hummed to, he wouldn’t know Radiohead and Guns ‘n Roses from his elbow. Those melodious voices would sing as the car glided through a pastoral Bangladesh. Her parents would sometimes play-act and pretend to be matinee idols Uttam-Suchitra or Babita-Razzak, singing along to ‘Kay prothom kachay ayshaychi...’ or ‘Eeyi poth jodi na shesh hoy...’ or ‘Jay chilo drishtir shimanaye’. Oh, those were happy days for the family. From the car’s backseat they had seemed the most fun people in the world! As her father’s business grew he changed, became busier and rarely had time off on the weekends. He was increasingly grumpy and tired. He would come home late looking stressed out. She had noticed then how the crease lines on his face shifted, from around his lips to his forehead. His business had stolen her father away from her, and there would be tension between her parents more often than not. She would hear her mother say, “Badal, you have to stop running after money. We don’t need so much money. Look at you. At this rate you won’t live long!” But her father would rarely bother to reply, and when he did it would be a terse, “There’s no coming back, Dolon. There’re too many debts.” Laughter disappeared from the house. Samia would back off to her room and be disconsolate, sometimes crying in the dark. She would lie in the dark and pray to God to give her father back. She wanted her rides back, her discovery of the city and its surrounding green lands, the little picnics trips, the laughter, the food and the fun. But, the hands on the bedside clock didn’t start ticking anti-clockwise.

I

n the evening she went out of her room, wandered through the house aimlessly, rediscovering the nooks and corners—they were from a different time. The house was very quiet and empty. Even Rahim, their trusted help, was nowhere to be seen. The door to her parents’ bedroom was locked. “Keep away, emotion running high,” it seemed to say to her. After much dithering she knocked on it. Outside it was dusk, the sun, like a low-voltage bulb, was about to be snuffed out, any moment now. Her mother opened the door. Her father was lying in bed with a book, and he looked up at her from over his reading glasses and smiled. She threw her arms around her mother and wept, then snuggled beside her father—his smell seamlessly bridging the time from her childhood to now. After her hasty return from the US, this was the first time she had hugged her father. Exhausted, she turned over on her side and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. n

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ARTS & LETTERS

D H A K A T R I B U N E S U N DAY, J U LY 7, 2 0 1 3


D H A K A T R I B U N E S U N DAY, J U LY 7, 2 0 1 3

ARTS & LETTERS


ARTS & LETTERS

D H A K A T R I B U N E S U N DAY, J U LY 7, 2 0 1 3


Arts & Letters-July3