Translated by Sumanta Banerjee
With an introduction by Sumanta Banerjee
4.25 x 7 inches, 175pp. May 2010
ISBN : 9781906497491
Rs 350.00 (HB)
Unlike most of Mahasweta Devi’s works, which focus on Bengali tribes and the rural dispossessed, the four stories collected in Baitare located in the urban and suburban criminal underworld, and form an unusual segment of Devi’s oeuvre.
The first story, “Fisherman,” is about a man who recovers the bodies of young boys from the village pond so that the police can pass them off as victims of drowning. “Knife,” on the other hand, is a tongue-in-cheek account of the liminal cultural world of West Bengal, which borders Bangladesh. A young woman makes her own protest against an exploitative establishment as a result of abuse by a politician and his cohorts in “Body.” An unemployed middle-class youth discovers himself after his first “test” killing in the dark story “Killer.”
This collection of fascinating and unsettling stories is anchored by an in-depth introductory essay by cultural historian Sumanta Banerjee who has firsthand familiarity with the settings and situations from his crime-reporting past. Banerjee contextualizes the stories within the development of the growing criminal underworld in Bengal today.
Mahasweta Devi is one of India's foremost writers. Her powerful fiction has won her recognition in the form of the Sahitya Akademi (1979), Jnanpith (1996) and Ramon Magsaysay (1996) awards, amongst several other literary honours. She was also awarded the Padmasree in 1986, for her activist work amongst dispossessed tribal communities.
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