RaveWorld Literature TodayThe narrators consist of three women of different generations of the family, lending the plot a delightful tripartite divide. It is a tale about the tenacity of the human spirit to withstand hardships and about human relationships that endure. This translation—of a difficult text to translate—possesses the rare quality of being appealing to both the English-speaking reader and to the audience who can understand the Bengali language. I’ve had a chance to read the original Bengali text as well, and the work has been successfully transferred, cultural flavor and all, into a rather curt and mercantile language like English ... the reader will be afforded a sidelong glance at upper-middle-class Bengali sentiments, at least at a certain point in the history of this community ... The beginning is Austenesqe—befitting the book being brought out by John Murray, the same publisher who printed Jane Austen’s works back in the day—tongue-in-cheek and dripping with a dry sense of irony ... The book is a riot, a sprightly thriller that will make you not only want to discover more Bengali cultural norms of the vintage era but also create rational stirrings within you to go look up more of Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s works. The translated plot metes out a sensitive treatment to the volatile issues of the Partition of India and the heteropatriarchal structures that traditionally cloistered the women of the family, yet it still manages to retain its unquestionably comic element ... contains curious and textured character sketches ... All is described with wonderful deftness ... Taboo subjects like female desire post-widowhood, simmering female rage, indignation at the secret debauchery on the part of the married men in the household—these assume lives of their own in The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die, morphing into ghosts of an unending past.
Nino Haratischvili, Trans. by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin
PositiveWorld Literature Today... Georgian writer Nino Haratischvili rescues her country of origin from unfair prejudices ... The author borrows from rich literary traditions: there are hints of Tolstoy, Pasternak, and, from a different canon altogether, Charles Dickens ... Haratischvili’s eclectic choice of epigraphs never fails to surprise or delight. However, though the vast historical scope has been dealt with quite deftly here, the novel could certainly have benefitted from good editing. If ever the author intended to insert subtext or gesture into her scenes, the sheer volume of description in them—realist to a fault—invariably overwhelms any possibility of there being space for these elements. At times, the characterization, too, can seem heavy-handed, a bit overworked ... This book was a sobering reminder that human society has lived through wars, famines, plagues, and other crises and that literature and other arts have always found a way to brave these contingencies and still manage to survive. In a vibrant and lithe translation, Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin have rendered this 900-plus-page novel gracefully riveting—down to the very last part—which is supposed to remain a bit of a surprise. A Rosetta stone meant only for the eyes of time and for Brilka’s telling ... The narrator shows us how, in the end, the act of writing is an act of vindicating one’s past, of narrating the social histories of one’s ancestors, and of trying to gather the threads of their collective trauma into a finished weave of patterns for a generation that will someday hold the reins of history in their own hands, in a battered world but also perhaps one full of renewed possibility for change.