Letters of blood by Rizia Rahman

Letters of blood by Rizia Rahman (library of Bangladesh)

Bangladesh literature

Original title – Rokter Okkhor

Translator – Arunava Sinha

Source – personal copy

I read a while ago about the library of Bangladesh series of books I am a fan of publishers trying to collect together literature from a particular country. Seagull books have published books for us in the UK and US. Rizia Rahman is one of the most respect Bangledesh writers having published more than fifty novels. This was her fourth novel when it was published in 1978 she was inspired to write it from an article called the prostitutes of Dhaka. She was unable to visit the brothels but used Male journalist reports and photographs of them in the brothels to imagine there lives. She said when this came out in English received a lot of praise for the book, but also had to endure an equal amount of abuse.”

One side of the termite-ridden door of Bokul’s room has collapsed. Yasmin shivers at the sight of Bokul’s naked, unconscious form on the bed, lit by the reddish glow of the lamp. A wild animalseems to have sliced up her body with its claws. She is bleeding. A miserable Shanti is wiping her body with a rag. She doesn’t look as thpough she had a violent quarrel with Bokul this morning. Yasmin tells Zarina, who’s standing there, “MANNAN should have dettol in his shop. Get a bottle”

Violence is always just below the surface of those living in the brothel.

This is the second book in the last few months I have read based around a Brothel the other was the booker longlist 10 minutes 38 seconds by Elif Shafak. This like that book lifts the lid on the everyday life of those women in the brothel here in such a short book we get to know a number of the girls and their stories. We have Yasim she was involved in the war of liberation and is from a middle-class background unlike a lot of the girls she lives with she has had a hard time to wind up there. This is a woman who falls on hard times and is similar to the lead character in Elif’s book. Then we have some of the other girls some of them that dress like the movie stars of the day in a sort of escape from every day lives. Others try to get the richest clients and use that as a way to fame and fortune and the way out. She also captures those little arguments everyday tasks they have to do in-between clients the things that make their days in this bleak world go by the risk of diseases and abuse always in the background and everyone is just a day away from a fall that may stop them earning and having a living.

Mashi begins to abuse the women ” You line iof wores, what do you think you’re doing! You’ve become too big for your own good. I’m informing the police at once.They eat out of my hands, They’ll beat you all of you to a pulp”

Marjna stans up to her ” To hell with your police. You scare us with talk of police to exort money from us every month. You think we don’t understand?”

They try to stand up for themselves against those that are trying to exploit them.

This book is just 140 pages long but it does what I think great novellas do well and that seems like an epic trapped in a small book. This is a lifting of the veil on a world that one imagines in the time the book was written to now hasn’t changed much. Rizia has a sensitive eye for the girls of the brothels her writing is never judgemental and shows the lives of bones and all. How vulnerable they are they can be sold and moved on anytime. She captures their world. The men in this book are in the background but depicted as violent abusive wanton or as the pimps for the girls. There world is them on top of one another and the sense of this meaning that there is trouble always just around the corner as they compete for the men there. I was sad to read that Rizia Rahman had passed away last year she seemed an interesting writer that has just this book translated into English so far.

A temporary sojourn and other stories by Nasreen Jahan

A temporary sojourn by Nasreen Jahan

Bangladeshi Fiction

Original title –

Edited by Niaz Zaman

Translators – various

Source – review copy

I was sent this via a fellow blogger Chelsea McGill who blogs from the globally curious  and lives in India . The collection she sent me is from one of the best known Bangladeshi writers Nasreen Jahan , she joined the Chander hat a national organsation for children organisations in 1974 and was at this time also encouraged to writer short stories which eventually got published in a daily paper in Bangladesh. She has written novels and short stories and also a number of prizes including the Bangla prize.

Kader Ali had cleaved the boy in two with his axe and fled the village in a frenzy. By the time he reached the riverbank at the end of the river, it was past sundown. An unpredictable wind was blowing, sometimes motionless and dead, sometimes they lash at you so hard you’re startled. In this unruly state of nature the river waters are in a fix. Fortunately a pitch darkness has defended or else this behaviour of the wind on her anchal waves pulling in one way and baring the other would have caused the river to fail miserably in keeping herself decent.

A temporary sojourn opening passage

The stories in this collection all for me had an eerie feel to them a collection of tales of low lives and people on the edge of life.A husband in the title story kills his son because he feels his wife hasn’t really become a muslim after they married. Elsewhere a mother and daughter fall out over the daughters lover the mother has deformed legs this remind me some what of Maugham characters in of human bondage only with the roles shift in sexes. Other stories head into Marquez and magic realism with cattle thief clashing with the vultures and elsewhere animals turning up. These are stories of everyday Bangladesh where we she how hard life is for the woman there and how often they are let down by the males around them. A refreshing collection of stories from a new name for the blog and new country for the blog.

A vulture is perched between the outstretched legs of the dead cow that had been lying on Nayar Char for sometime. It is jumping about like a new-born calf.

Kutubuddi is watching from a distance. There is not a single soul in sight anywhere. The sky seems to have descended on the Char like the breast of a white cow. Today Kutubuddi is a skilled hunter. his feet are [added like a cat;s. Indifferent to the thorny bushes that are scratching him and drawing blood he creeps forward

Man and Vulture get to it over a dead cow in the story Vulture , I felt this had a large echo of Marquez in it.

When I started winstonsdad these are the books I wanted to review the rare gems those books that show how yes these stories are set in Bangladesh but also the stories could remind you so much of the people we see every day on Jeremy kyle being at the bottom is hard wherever you are but this also shows how strong the woman are in Bangladesh for me this is also a perfect books for woman in translation month. Yes some of the translations are maybe raw and the voice isn’t the same as it is when one translator does a short story collection but it is also refreshing to see so many translators that can translate Bangladeshi fiction into English eleven in all. Many thanks for Chelsea for sending it to me .Have you read any books from Bangladesh.

July 2020
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