The Greatest Bengali Stories book is a collection of Bengali folk tales, which every Bengali child enjoys. It consist twenty-one best Bengali stories ever told.
All these stories are authored by well-known Bengali writers. Selected and translated into English, the collection is commendable.
The short stories are very engaging. The book is also pleasing to read to a non-academic reader. The language used is lucid and comprehensive.
The collection is worth adoring. The text presents a rich ambiance of Bengali literature, and the craftsmanship is commendable. Beginning from Rabindranath Tagore to Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, I experience a delightful journey.
A noteworthy thing is that Arunava Sinha has procured the essence of original texts. Each story here, is simple and beautiful in its own way. It is also a collection that allows to shape the moral character of an individual.
The preface of the Greatest Bengali Stories is the most significant part of the text. The author gives an introduction titled, “My love affair with bengali stories”.
Arunava Sinha shares his childhood memories with these stories. He describes his inane love for the short stories.
The stories do not provide any historical background of Bengali culture. We find that the Bengali stories listed are author’s personal favorites.
He pays homage to language, literature, and culture through this collection. This collection depicts his devotion towards the work which has shaped his career as a translator.
Table of Contents
About the Author: Arunava Sinha
Arunava Sinha is an eminent Indian translator of Bengali Literature. He was born and brought up in Calcutta. He translates into English all the Bengali fictional, non-fictional and contemporary works.
Around fifty six of his translations are published and available in the market. Mr. Sinha has won Crossword Translation Award twice for Sankar’s Chowringhee (2007) and Anita’s Seventeen (2011).
He has also received The Muse India Translation Award in 2013, for Buddhadeva Bose’s ‘When the time is right’. Also, the author was further shortlisted for “The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize” in 2009.
Bharat Chakravarti’s ‘things that happen and other poems’ long-listed him for the Best translated book award in 2018. Other than in India, his works are globally published in the countries like UK and US.
I find the translations in many languages of his works in European and Asian countries as well. He organized many workshops on translation at British Centre for Literary Translation.
Mr. Sinha is an Associate Professor in the Creative Writing department at Ashoka University. At present, he is living in New Delhi.
The Greatest Bengali Stories Ever Told Book Review
The most appealing theme which cannot go unnoticed in these stories is wealth. We come across the picture that how wealthier people tend to suppress those who are not rich.
The way one behaves with a destitute is very insensitive. Living in a society with unequal income distribution, it becomes difficult to surpass that invisible line.
Money is supreme and lack of it may lead a man to do heinous crimes. In the story – Mahesh; an animal, which is speechless, gets killed by his master. And the reason will blow you away. The master could not afford to feed the bull.
In “The Offering” by Pramatha Chaudhari how wealth fails to satiate humans. There will never be enough money to quench the greed of an individual.
Money also becomes the cause of family rivalry. “Einstein and Indubala” tell us a tale of fame. Einstein, besides his great knowledge could not attract the audience for his sermon.
While Indubala, attracts the whole village for her show. We discover that people of all ages are after fame and not wisdom.
“The Homecoming” by Banaphool makes us believe that one can do anything for money. The Insurance Agent, in the story convinces Durga ma to take the policy.
Link to Arunava Sinha website.
We all are aloof in a way or other. To deal with loneliness, we keep our mind focused on good. Rabindranath Tagore through his work ‘Kabuliwallah’ focuses on this theme.
Kabuliwallah and writer’s daughter find a friend in each other. After some time when Kabuliwallah gets imprisoned, she doesn’t ask his whereabouts.
In “The Offering”, we witness how Ratnamyee’s life turns upside down for she is alone. Devi’s Urvashi and Johnny depicts the falling actor, his life so dark with only a ray of hope which is Urvashi.
A Muslim share cropper names his bull Mahesh. The name of the bull suggests that the owner means no religious bias. The village, on the other hand does not understand the dilemma of Gafoor Khan.
Various themes of the Greatest Bengali Stories
The collection consists of various themes. The stories collected from different eras tell us the atmosphere of that time.
From Tagore’s brilliant Kabuliwallah to Sarat’s Mahesh. Some stories tell how one can be alone but happy. While others give us a picture of how loneliness can be devastating.
In some tales of the Greatest Bengali Stories, we find money as a driving force. Human folk is toiling day and night to earn handsome money.
Fame is another dangerous bird. This particular thing is driving everyone crazy. Love and compassion is something we all crave for.
The affection in mother’s lap to your beloved’s arms is a long journey. In this journey, we find so many emotions like envy, pride, sadness, and etc.
Urvashi and Johnny by Mahasweta Devi reveals the profound love of a fading actor. Devi’s story talks about the obsession of a fading towards Urvashi.
Urvashi’s disease becomes an ailment for the star. Ghatak’s story Raja, pictures the struggles of working class. Satyajit Ray in his “Two Magicians” shows the deep-rooted Indian relation i.e. guru-shishya.
Arunava Sinha through this anthology presents a vivacious picture of Bengal. These fables succeed in capturing the eyes of reader via its exquisite description.
What I like the Most in The Great Bengali Stories?
Arunava Sinha through this collection portrays the creative history of Bengal. With firm attention, the translator picked these stories.
The stories represent the heritage and culture of Calcutta, if not Bengal exactly. The exotic Bengali literature is vast and well acquainted to everyone.
Selecting few drops from the great sea, it must be difficult for the author. This collection in a way is paying homage to the celebrated Bengali literature.
We understand the Bengali literary heritage better with these short stories. It will be untrue to declare that short stories are not the most luring tales.
Each story takes you on an adventurous journey. We deal with every aspect of life through this collective fables book.
It is remarkable that Arunava Sinha did toil to gather the childhood memories. This collection is a walk down the memory lane which is worth it.
Though all the writers here are not eminent, but they fail not to please the reader. My favorite section in the text is the introduction-“My love affair with Bengali short stories”.
It is a section where the author shares his reminiscences about Bengali short stories. He tells how he attained the fondness for the same.
The stories written in the Greatest Bengali Stories book are personal favorite of author. He leaves on us whether to criticize or not the text.
The balance between classic and contemporary texts is wonderful. The translator has also retained the essence of originality in the text.
What did I not Like
When we note down the points on how much we liked the book, as well as we quote points to criticize it. This book is a chromatic vision of a vivid culture and worth admiring.
It contains something for people of all age. Those who are admirers of Tagore may feel that there are better stories instead of Kabuliwallah.
Not only Tagore but there are other writers with better pieces published. Something that is problematic is the title.
When the title states “The Greatest Bengali Stories Ever Told”, it may not be the same for everyone. Although, it is beforehand told that these are personal favorites, then the title is not apt.
Another point of criticism is that the stories are roughly arranged. In this order, it is difficult to claim the chronology of publication of the texts.
There is not much to say in negative about The Greatest Bengali Stories book. It is true that translation is not everyone’s piece of cake. The remarkable job of translation is praise worthy.
Best Quotes from The Greatest Bengali Stories book
“Festivities were brightened by the benediction of a father’s love”.
“The afternoon sun and the rocking of the palanquin brought on a slumber, but that slumber was not sleep.”
“Love was nothing more than a terrible hunger, and this hunger, just like physical hunger, was blind and ruthless.”
“Everything will be sunk in deep silence without beginning or end, just like carcasses preserved in formaldehyde at the museum.”
“This pit of fire, this fierce sound, the mechanical movements of the factory workers, all these help me forget that I am actually someone else.”
On the scale of 1-5, it is a 4. It is super enjoyable especially for those who are into short stories. This collection has an amalgamation of prolific Bengali writers.
The vocabulary is also not much complex. It is easy to read through the lines. Since, it includes short stories the readers are least likely to get distracted.
There is a shift in plots of some texts every now and then. There are also stories that do not have a twisted plot.
The stories keep readers engrossed. It is a good book to spend leisure time with. If you are in a mood to delve into a rich culture then this text is yours to grab. Happy reading!
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If you love reading short stories, i would recommend you to check out other short stories books.