Book: The Moving Shadow: Electrifying Bengali Pulp Fiction
Selected and translated by: Arunava Sinha
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Price: Rs. 499
From robot with emotions to a Bidri bowl that everybody was after, to missing blood, stolen corpses, and the moon that’s fast approaching earth, the stories in The Moving Shadow: Electrifying Bengali Pulp Fiction showcase the long lineage of pulp fiction in Bengali literature. The book contains eight novellas and stories pertaining to genres of crime and horror, with four stories in each, featuring detectives, spies, femme fatales, casanovas, and much more. Selected and translated by Arunava Sinha, the book consists of stories from some of the best writers from India and Bangladesh including Satyajit Ray, Premendra Mitra, Gobindolal Bandyopadhyay, Swapan Kumar and Bhabani Mukhopadhyay.
The Moving Shadow: Electrifying Bengali Pulp Fiction marks my foray into Bengali literature and I regret not doing this much earlier. The book came out at a time when I was looking for diverse Indian reads, and the timing could not have been better! I had no idea that we had such diverse pulp fictions to our credit, that too from some master storytellers like Ray. While some of the stories impressed me, I was thoroughly disappointed with a few.
The first story, Parashar Barma Makes a Bid by Premendra Mitra was very engaging, witty and maintained the suspense throughout. However, it was too similar to Sherlock Holmes-the whole famous detective whose story is narrated by a friend he always takes around with him during his detective escapades and the constant failed efforts by the narrator to solve the clues firsthand and impress the detective himself. The Moving Shadow by Swapan Kumar had detective Dipak Chatterjee solving the mystery of ‘The Moving Shadow,’ a criminal (or group of criminals) engaged in some mysterious activities in the city. It was well-written, had a well-constructed story and was brimming with suspense, but it did not have anything new to offer and had a very predictable ending.
I was absolutely disappointed with The Secret Agent by Vikramaditya, as for starters, it was way too long for a short story and dragged on meaninglessly that I was forced to skip a few paragraphs. It covered the theme of spies and had too many unnecessary characters, the plot was poorly constructed and the story failed to strike a chord with me. More of a science fiction, Capotronic Love by Muhammed Zafar Iqbal told the story of a robot and was a much-needed relief from its predecessor. It was crisp, charming, and connected well with me.
This entire section was an absolute delight that had me hooked throughout. The first story in this section, Bhuto by Satyajit Ray is my favourite story from the book. It told the story of an established ventriloquist and an aspiring one and was spooky, brilliantly written, and the suspense level was top-notch. I have to appreciate Sinha for maintaining the magnificence of Ray’s writing in the translation.
On this silent night, undisturbed by the sounds of traffic, two people could be heard breathing in Nobin’s room
The Moon is Back by Adrish Bardhan was more of a science fiction and talked about a strange phenomenon associated with the moon. The story had me baffled, hooked to it from the beginning, and the ending rendered me speechless. Coupled with such great writing, the whole idea put forth in the story just made it such a pleasant read.
The story of a psychologist and his patient, Saradindu and This Body by Gobindolal Bandyopadhyay was terrifying. Though it was not too engaging and had poorly constructed dialogues, the story was great. I loved Foreshadowed by Bhabani Mukhopadhyay!! The story of a married couple, it was creepy, filled with suspense and had such an unpredictable ending.
The Moving Shadow: Electrifying Bengali Pulp Fiction selected and translated by Arunava Singha has something for everyone. The book was such an eye-opener for me regarding Bengali literature and each story was so diverse that I was eagerly awaiting what came next. I am not in a position to comment on Singha’s translation of these works, but I absolutely loved his idea of bringing together Bengali pulp fiction in such a fine compilation. I highly recommend this book to everyone, and is a must read if you are a fan of pulp fiction.
PS: I received a copy of the book from the publishers in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.