Some years ago, I had reviewed a different translation of Durgeshnandini for TBR. To revisit the same novel now via this new translation is to be reminded again of the durability of Bankim in our collective literary imagination. When Durgeshnandini first appeared, it had taken the Bengali literary world by storm, as a landmark in the emergence of a new genre. Today, in view of current controversies surrounding creative interpretations of history, it is worth asking why our writers, translators, publishers and readers compulsively return to the past in their search for inspiration. Does this re-invocation of the past act as a distancing device, a form of escapism, or a veiled engagement with the contemporary via an apparent engagement with a different era? Why a new translation now, when several English versions are already available? Such questions encompass issues concerning readership, changing approaches to translation, relationships between ‘vernacular’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ texts, and the dynamics of the literary marketplace.
VOLUME XLII No. 02
FEBRUARY - 2018
Travel writing, in the Bengali literary tradition, has an extraordinary appeal. From first-hand accounts of perilous/adventurous journeys to faraway lands to more comfortable ones nearer home, Bengalis love them all. They also love completely fictional narratives as long as they offer the ‘real’ feel of travel. It is not surprising, therefore, to find an overwhelming number of Bengali writers engaging in such writing. A quick survey of published travelogues suggests that their quality vary substantially; some are wonderful pieces of literature, while others, often like the Lonely Planet ones, are typically touristy and dull.