Book Review: Primal Woman


Sunil Gangopadhyay was one of the most prolific writers in Bangla. His books, over the decades, have enriched the readers and reached new heights of popularity. He is my favourite author, of course, having read almost all his novels since they came in periodical magazines with a lot of suspense between a week’s separation. Not only novels, Sunil Gangopadhyay was a master in writing short stories and I have read several of them. This book came to me with a lot of anticipation how the translation would be. But then, I had read Aruna Chakraborty’s translation of The Lonely Monarch by Sunil Gangopadhyay and liked it.

This anthology begins with the title story – Primal Woman. It is an astonishing one, where he portrays Lilith as the first woman ever created, yes, even before Eve. Lilith was everything we want to be – lovable, beautiful, bold and independent. It is the perfect reason why Adam couldn’t tolerate her like all male chauvinists we know. And the creator had to build Eve out of Adam’s ribs, so that she can remain a part of him – obedient, subversive, and timid. The story actually gives you goose bumps; it reminds you that things haven’t changed even today. We want to be like Lilith, but our surroundings mostly want us to be like Eve.

There are 14 other stories, and quite a few of them deal with an extraordinary women character, which we can look up to. There’s Haseena, the ravishing village belle, withstanding disaster after her husband’s death. How every man in the village and from outside lusts for her body, except her father, will fill you with disgust and anger. There’s Surobala, who leaves her children and ailing husband to join a brothel, just so she could feed them a bowl of rice. Talking of rice, there’s the story of a ghost and a bowl of hot rice. It will take you through the poverty-ridden lanes of rural Bengal, where a little rice can be more expensive than a human life.

Most of the stories are set in the rural parts of undivided Bengal and describe the rough beauty of the landscape, coupled with the wrath of nature, such as flood. The writing is haunting, to say the least. You won’t regret once you start reading, and it is definitely unputdownable. The translation is as close to the original as it could be, with a few Bangla words and terms to retain the flavour.

Lastly, this anthology couldn’t be complete without the heart-wrenching story of Charles Hamilton, who settled in Bengal for 33 years after leaving England, and still has his name and history attached to the villages he lived in.

Do read. You’ll love it.

TitlePrimal Woman
Author: Sunil Gangopadhyay | Translator: Aruna Chakraborty
PublisherHarper Collins India
Pages: 250
Genre/ Sub-Genre: Fiction/ Short Stories
Rating: 5.00 of 5.00
Reviewed for: The Tales Pensieve Kindle Pick of the month – November 2015

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