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Alienation and Exile

Aruna Chakravarti

By Sunil Gangopadhyay
Ananda Publishers, Kolkata, 2006, pp. 170, price not stated.

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 12 December 2006

In the sixties Sunil Gangopadhyay, already a well-known poet, wrote his first two novels: Jubak Jubati and Atma Prakash, spearheading a movement that brought the Bengali novel out of the shadows of romance and cautious social comment to the glare of harsh introspection and relentless probing into the tensions of a post-Independence urban reality. Recording the uncertainties and tribulations of a ‘lonely crowd’ consequent upon the movement of people from one way of life to another, Sunil Gangopadhyay examines states of alienation and exile and analyses the methods that were being employed by the younger generation to overcome them— a generation that he projects as now rebellious, now beaten. The jubak jubati (young men, young women) of Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Kolkata, driven by negative emotions unknown in their hitherto cloistered, conventional lives, flock the streets. Admittedly the Kolkata of the sixties provided ample material for the writing of ruthlessly realistic fiction. Sunil Gango-padhyay seized the opportunity. The novel, in his hands, became ‘a slice of life’.   Structurally, these novels and the ones that follow proclaim a triumphant ‘non-structure’. Sukh Asukh, Aranyer Din Ratri, Hridaye Probas, Pratidwandi and Rupali Manabi have often been labelled as ‘narratives without a narrative’. Beginning at a random point, e.g. “Paritosh came this morning. ‘What do you gentlemen think you’re doing?’ he said, “there’s a limit to everything, ’” (Atma Prakash ) Sunil Gangopadhyay takes his readers through a series of characters and events that appear unrelated. The reality, however, is that the threads, held securely in the author’s hand, move with simple but deft strokes towards the making of a superb fabric. There are no holes or faded patches in this fabric. No floundering. And despite the absence of the romantic and the heroic, of individuals of magnitude, there is no flagging of interest. The mesmerized reader goes through the motions of conversion of non-drama into drama; of the ordinary into the extraordinary.   After these early novels Sunil Gangopadhyay started enlarging his canvas. The next three decades saw the publication of four mega novels—Eka Ebong Koyekjon, Sei Samai, Purba Paschim and Pratham Alo—and Sunil Gangopadhyay’s disengagement from a hitherto overwhelming present. Each of these novels is an enormous chess board over which hundreds of pawns are moved with skilled precision towards a seemingly unconceived conclusion. We find serious historical research here, anthropological study, social and religious enquiry and examination of ...

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