Among millions of stories residing in Dhaka city, The Book of Dhaka: A City in Short Fiction brings together 10 stories of the city where people once laid down their lives for the right to speak their own language, mentions K Anis Ahmed in the introduction of the book edited by Arunava Sinha and Pushpita Alam, published by Bengal Lights Books.
From Bangla all these stories have been translated. And the name to set sail with is Pushpita Alam who has well-knitted the essence and structure in English of the Bengali fiction 'The Raincoat' by Akhteruzzaman Elias. The war-time visual imageries are brutally stuck in the mind palace of Bangalees. This challenge is finely handled in Pushpita's approach where she pens every nook and corner of Elias' narrative with subtle excellence. She sets her foot in the original structure, and lays her aces of literary methods suffusing the text in the arena of English literature, and thereby victoriously framing Bangaliana in the canvas of English language. Here is a glimpse of extracts from the text:
"Ah, the pitter-patter drizzling of the rain!"
"Then he sucks the soft breath of his words into the stubble on his yellow cheek"
"The whiplashes fall like rain against his raincoat-like skin, and he repeats endlessly: he knows the miscreants address."
Characterization is one of the most important bricks in the process of constructing fiction. Adnan and Anu in the fiction titled 'The Decision' by Parvez Hossain are painted by the literary pen of Pushpita Alam in detail as if readers can picturize the Dhaka city, and the lives of the people dwelling in the city. The translation bloomed as word-pictures:
"Running her fingers through her dishevelled hair, she hailed a rickshaw to take her to the Book Fair."
At times, crispy syntax, and at times elaborating the sentence structure relevantly to play with the literary coherence with cohesion bring into the light the poesyness of the original Bengali fiction in the global stage. Here is the beauty of the climax:
"The repeated whistles from the guards prevented them from staying any longer. There wasn't a single star in the sky. It might rain again tonight, Anu thought, in which case it would be impossible to get a ride home. Returning would be a troublesome affair."
Another shot fiction by Syed Manzoorul Islam titled 'The Weapon' is neatly trans-sketched by Arunava Sinha in English magically under the curtain of magic realism of Syed Manzoorul Islam. The journey of Ponir—penned as if filmed in scribbly organized sequences—goes with many ups and downs parallel to Dhaka city streets, and Arunava Sinha undoubtedly plays her translation dices on board with a crunchy lucidity. The surreal pen-art of Syed Manzoorul Islam gets exact vividness and literary colour even in the translated work. The following can work like a trailer:
"Ponir went out of the room with the rustling packet holding 'Memorable Sayings of Venerable People' in one hand and the pistol wrapped in polythene in the other….
On Bongshal Main Road, Ponir found the open manhole gaping at the moon. And the poor moon was trying its best to cover the sludge and shit overflowing from it with a tender glow.
Ponir paused for a moment at the manhole. Then he flung one of the polythene packets into the thick mass of waste. It sank at once.
He would now head towards his destination with the other packet."
Syeda Nur-E-Royhan, Masrufa Ayesha Nusrat, and Arifa Ghani Rahman have kept pace with the intellectual translation level what this book presents in 'Mother' by Rashida Sultana, 'The Circle' by Moinul Ahsan Saber, and 'Home' by Shahreen Akhtar respectively. Mohammad Shafiqul Islam and Marzia Rahman cut off a good figure with flying colours in transforming the essence of Bengali fiction into English in Bipradash Barua's 'The Princess and the Father', and Anwara Syed Haq's 'Helal Was on His Way to Meet Reshma' correspondingly. Not a single story can let readers down. Mohammad Mahmudul Haque and Ahmed Ahsanuzzaman have drawn the curtain with Salma Banu's 'The Path of Poribibi', and Wasi Ahmed's 'The Widening Gyre' respectively and all of them did justice to the original works.
Against all odds, three factors have conspired to render Dhaka one of the most colourful and chaotically jolly cities, shares K Anis Ahmed in the preface: a rich interplay between folk and high culture, a fecund natural climate and the city-dwellers' own irresponsible instincts for creative entrepreneurship. Thus, stories which are born on the streets of Dhaka, have their own chaotically beautiful appeal in world literature.
Professor and renowned poet Kaiser Haq shows gratitude in the forward to the spirit of this "creative collaboration that moved so many institutions---BCLT, Bengal Lights Books, Comma Press, Commonwealth Writers, English PEN, ULAB…" Indeed, a throw of the dice will never abolish chance, says Kaiser Haq citing Mallarme, which well-fits this magical endeavour of BLB.
Ahmed Tahsin Shams is with
The Daily Observer