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It Rained All Night Buddhadeva Bose Clinton B Seely Penguin Raat Bhor Brishti

Book: "It Rained All Night" by Buddhadeva Bose (Raat Bhor Brishti); Translator: Clinton B. Seely; Publisher: Penguin Books-India; Price: Rs 150

Buddhadeva Bose, one of the most versatile Bengali writers of the 20th century, was convicted on Dec 19, 1970, for alleged obscenity in his book by the additional chief presidency magistrate of Kolkata just four years before his death.

The trial - which included 70 days of hearing - lasted a year and a half. The 63-year-old writer was made to stand inside a wire cage and the copies of his book, "It Rained All Night" (Raat Bhor Brishti) were seized and burnt. The police did not even spare the manuscript. Bose was refused leave to appeal. His book was banned.

However, the conviction was later overturned by the high court.

For the vast legions of English language readers outside Bengal and the Bengali GenNext brought up on a staple diet of contemporary Indo-Anglian and western literature, "It Rained All Night" - the English translation of Bose's controversial Bengali novel - by American scholar Clinton B. Seely is a window to the golden years of Bengali new-wave literary movement of the 20th century that charted a freewheeling course defying the repressive political regime of the 1960s and 1970s.

Seely is an emeritus professor of Bengali at the department of South Asian languages at the University of Chicago.

The book, published by Penguin Books-India, is an unforgettable tale of desire, adultery, jealousy and love in middle-class Kolkata.

Maloti, an attractive middle-class Bengali girl, marries the bookish college lecturer Noyonangshu for love only to find him "insecure, sexually timid" and confused.

While Noyonangshu shuns the conventional conservatism of the 1970s Bengal for a "nuclear life" he cannot reconcile to the idea of his wife seeking fulfilment outside marriage.

Maloti discovers passion in the arms of confident and down-to-earth journalist Jayanto, who connects to her inner self and matches her desire with his ardour and intensity. The descriptions of physical intimacy in the book are graphic and the sensibilities radical.

"Marriage! What a complex, difficult, necessary and fantastically durable institution it is - yet so fragile. Two human beings will spend their entire lives together. Not five or 15 years, but their entire lives - what more atrocious a tyranny, what more inhuman an ideal could there be," Noyonangshu, one of the three key characters in the triangle of love, says about marital incompatibility.

Seely's racy, uncluttered and emotional prose does not take away from the Bengali ambivalence of the early 1970s. The style is crisp - light and somewhat disjointed, reflecting the character's inner storms.

It captures the time when Left idealism and easy accessibility to world literature gave young educated men in Bengal a voice to debate world affairs like "Nehru's political blunders, Tibet and China" - while their wives became trophy women in little matchbox apartments home to cramped nuclear families - post-collapse of the extended filial orders of old Bengal.

Exposure to Russian and American modern literature and European art bred a social paradox. As the intellectual quotient of the young Bengali men soared, their personal lives became a trifle unreal dictated by Anton Chekhov and Botticelli.

The result: a conflict of values. Relationships degenerated and institutions crumbled with the winds of change. The churning of change took its toll on the human mind - driving it to the edge.

In Bose's book, Noyonangshu, Maloti's husband, becomes the victim - an unwitting pawn in Bengal's social-political metamorphosis.

Seely has worked closely with the author, though from a long distance. "The author was in Kolkata and I in Chicago. I had the honour and considerable good fortune to have known this man personally," Seely said.

The translator has authored a biography of Bengali poet Jibanananda Das and translated Michael Madhusudan Dutt's "Meghnadbadh Kavya" in English. (IANS)

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