Post-colonial literature in our country can never go out of existence or become outdated. That is also because the issues are the same, all the time – poverty, class, unemployment (to a very large extent), race issues and illiteracy. When a literary genre is named after something that so largely affected the entire nation, then one cannot ignore the genre and what works come out of it. Post-colonial literature is not just about literature post a certain period. It encompasses a shift – in rule, in defiance, in the government, the policies and the implications, which some authors try to document and make note of as literature.
One amongst many such writers happens to be Samaresh Basu. Translated fiction in India is another topic of discussion, maybe meant for a later time; however this post is about his book, “Fever”, translated wondrously by Arunava Sinha and republished recently by Random House India.
“Fever” is a book, though small in its size, took me some time to write a review about, mainly because of its content and what it represents. The book is a paean to the Naxalite movement and what it stood for or rather still stands for. Fever is about Ruhiton Kurmi – a once hardcore Naxalite, now moved from one prison to the next for seven years and eventually freed, looking back at his life – achievements and losses and the ideals he once believed in. Ruhiton not only looks back on the movement, but also his personal life – aspirations (whatever few that he manages), his wife, his youth, the friends he has lost along the way, and how he ended up where he is today.
At one point, I almost lost interest in the book (the pace is surreally slow) and got back to it, thanks to the translation. Arunava Sinha has been a doyen at translating Bengali literature (Tagore, Sankar, and Banaphool) and this one has been translated to the hilt, with excellence.
Samaresh Basu’s originality remains intact or so it seems while reading – for one I did not think the language or expression was lost in translation. Consider this, “He was reminded of all their faces, and of their voices, laughing, crying, talking in unison. He could not control the waterfall coursing down his heart”.
Personally, I do not enjoy novels with a political bent to them. The only other writer whose work I have enjoyed that remotely comes close to the Naxalite movement (very loosely though) is Mahasweta Devi, with her epic, “Mother of 1084”. Fever on the other hand is a representation of the movement through the mind and memories of a broken man, trying to make sense of the past and the present. A read that had me thinking for sure.