Archive | May 2014

Book 8: Bangladesh (English) – Shame (Taslima NASRIN)

Suranjan was lying still. Maya, his younger sister, had been nagging him all along to swing into action, “Dada, please do something. If you’re late, things may get out of hand.” Suranjan knew that “doing something” meant ducking in for some uncertain cover. It was just like a scared rat scurrying for a burrow and waiting for the all-clear signal before venturing out. For them, too, this would be the ordained course: keep watch for the right time in a hideout till the situation outside cooled down. But why should he run away from his own home?

 

Not to be confused with Rushdie’s Shame, which is about Pakistan.
With some countries it is hard to know which novel to choose, either because there is too much choice (Nigeria just gone and Russia coming up!) or because nothing is outstanding. I had no doubt which book I wanted to read for Bangladesh. Considering that Nasrin is considered Bangladesh’s Rushdie, being put under a death sentence fatwa for writing this book, I found it disappointing. In literary rank, she is no Rushdie. It was written in a white heat of anger (in a very short time) after the communal violence between Hindus and Muslims both in India and Bangladesh after the destruction of the Babri Mosque and is about the retaliatory persecutions of Hindus in Bangladesh, which I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of before. I feel it could have done with more thought, more subtlety, and better plotting. Large chunks of it consist of catalogues of communal crimes that you cannot imagine believable characters actually saying (or knowing). While very shocking, these data make you feel Nasrin perhaps should have written it as a non fiction book. The story is not particularly exciting and the characters are not well drawn – its hero (Suranjan) doesn’t really engage my sympathy. But it is obviously an enormously important book about a vital subject.

 

NASRIN, Taslima (1962 – ), Shame (translated from Bengali by Kankabati Datta), UK, Prometheus/Paperview, 1997, ISBN 1743-3120