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Barnita Bagchi

THE ARMENIAN CHAMPA TREE
By Mahasweta Devi . Translated by Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee
Seagull Books, Kolkata, 2000, pp. 54, Rs. 90.00

OUR NON-VEG COW AND OTHER STORIES
By Mahasweta Devi . Translated by Paramita Banerjee
Seagull Books, Kolkata, 2014, pp. x 115, Rs. 140.00

4 HEROES AND A GREEN BEARD
By Narayan Gangopadhyay . Translated by Swati Bhattacharji
Tara Books, Chennai, 1999, pp. 92, 4.99 GBP

THE COLONEL INVESTIGATES
By Syed Mustafa Siraj . Translated by Nivedita Sen
Srishti, New Delhi, 2004, pp. xix 327, Rs. 195.00

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 11 November 2004

While a little tribal Buno boy sets off into the unknown to prevent his beloved pet goat from being sacrificed by a Tantric sadhu, the non-veg cow Nyadosh wreaks havoc while having her fill of meat curry and freshly washed clothes. Meanwhile, the four Heroes or ‘Charmurti’ get into the mysterious web of Kagamachi (or is it someone else?) on vacation in Darjeeling, while the dapper antiquarian Colonel Niladri Sarkar moves round the glories of crumbling old mansions in rural Bengal, relishing his investigations into the ghoulish and the macabre. The works under review are all very deserving of being translated, and the quality of translation is high, ranging from competent (Our Non-Veg Cow) to good (4 Heroes and a Green Beard and The Colonel Investigates) to excellent (The Armenian Champa Tree).       Narayan Gangopadhyay’s ‘Charmurti’ or 4 Heroes tales are some of the most loved and endearing works in Bengali ‘shishu’ or ‘kishor sahitya’ (writing for children and teenagers). Based firmly in a workaday North Calcutta locality, Pataldanga, the stories feature four boys in their late teens, led by their inimitable leader Teni-da, the omnivorous teller of tall tales who has flunked his matriculation examination at least three times. The narrator, Pyala, is always suffering from tummy upsets and is perpetually laughed at and set upon by the others, of whom the youngest and brainiest, Kyabla, is the polar opposite to Teni-da. Tara Publishing’s edition is set in large type, with well-spaced lines, with an attractive cover; the crispness of the translation is well highlighted by this high quality of production.  There is no preface or annotation: the work, this edition proclaims, will grip the reader for its inherent raciness, and indeed it does.      I have read many of Syed Mustafa Siraj’s Colonel stories in periodicals, especially the ‘Sharadiya’ or early autumn Puja issues so popular among Bengali readers. It is an act of courage to bring some of these out in book form, and Srishti deserves special commendation for this. The Colonel tales have all the elements of stylization necessary to create ‘brand-name’ detectives: the detective is elderly, eccentric, hyperactive, a collector of butterflies, and an antiquarian, while the narrator Jayanto is a journalist. Siraj builds in many apparently supernatural elements in the tales, but proves them all to have been natural phenomena, after all. His sense of the Gothic and of landscape and mood stand out, even ...


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