Friday, June 08, 2007

A Voice For Us ... and Us

I just finished reading Tahmima Anam's A Golden Age, and will write down my thoughts while they are still fresh.

The book is a novel based on the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. With the tumultuous events as a backdrop it traces the lives of some families who were deeply affected by the war.

I believe this is the first English novel about 1971, published by a reputable British publisher and well-publicized and well-received internationally. The story of Bangladeshis' courage, sacrifice and humanity has been told many times in Bangla, but not so much in English - and certainly not in a popular medium such as this book. Tahmima is thus a voice for us Bangladeshis, specially to the rest of the world, where our story is not as well-known as it should be.

More than that, this is a powerful war novel. War brings out the best and the worst in us humans - and Tahmima has characterized those extremes in a believable and humane manner. You feel deeply aghast at the atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army, but you also feel infinitely uplifted by the good deeds that common people do - both in Bangladesh and neighboring India. In that sense, hers is a voice for us, humanity.

If you are at all interested in the story of those days, you should get a copy of this book. It makes a difficult period accessible to us - without being overly heavyweight, but with grace and compassion. The author succeeds with "less is more" - without laying it on too thick, and having great effectiveness as a storyteller and chronicler of a not-too-distant past. For example, as the night of March 25th (when the massacres started) unfolds, the dinner scenario with roast goat is not at all gruesome, yet it is one of the most disturbing and bloodcurdling patches of fiction I have read.

Visual details like this one also make the novel a good candidate for a movie.

My congratulations to Tahmima. I look forward to reading many more good books by her.

5 comments:

Mikey said...

Ihtisham,

Thanks for this review.. I'll definitely add it to my reading list in prep for my own book...

ulysses said...

Hi Mikey,

You are welcome! I understand a
local edition is published (fully
legit) and selling for Tk 300 (for
Bangladesh only.)

Ihtisham

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insight - I will also put it in my list.

Lotus Reads said...

I just finished reading this book and will post my thoughts on it soon. Thank you for your review!

ulysses said...

Hi Anonymous,

You are welcome! Thanks for reading the blog.

Hi Lotus Reads,

You are welcome! I look forward to
reading your review.

Ihtisham