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Review: The Awakening

books Updated: Nov 19, 2009 20:19 IST
Sanchita Guha
Sanchita Guha
Hindustan Times
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Title: The Awakening
Author: Anita Agnihotri; translated by Nandini Guha
Publisher: Zubaan
Price: Rs 295

It would be unkind to say that the translator has not done her best, but the complexity of this plot, its many branches intersecting, would need a more skilled hand, though Nandini Guha comes with weighty credentials. One jarring element of the book is the intermittent use of words like ‘lightening (to mean ‘lightning’) and ‘barefeet (to mean ‘barefoot)’. But primarily, the trouble is that in translation, too many words are expended in saying what would have been more nuanced in the original.

Anita Agnihotri, one of Bengali literature’s best known modern writers, weaves a story around two class struggles — the personal one of a lowly chamar (leather worker) who has a burning desire to create deities in clay, traditionally an upper caste profession; and the bigger one of the Naxalite movement that scorched Bengal in the Sixties and Seventies. Both are a trial by fire, claiming victims, transforming lives.

The book could have benefited more from a tighter leash on the subplots, but it has enough poignant, intense moments to make it memorable.