Title: The Resignation (Tyagpatra)
Translator: Rohini Chowdhury
Publisher: Penguin India
Genre: Indian Literature, Translated Fiction, Literary Fiction
Indian Literature is under-rated. I have always believed that most Indian writers (great ones at that) are often not spoken about or mentioned at all. Some great books are never discussed. That’s a sad situation for a country that is so rich in literature – considering the number of languages stories are weaved in and then translated for the English reader’s (like me) benefit, only not to be praised.
One such Indian writer that needs to be spoken more about is Jainendra. Born in 1905, he was one of the first to join the Independence Movement in 1921. The interesting part is that most of his stories and novels are centered on the idea of freedom and the right to speech, which is what, pulls me to read his books. I have read his short stories in Hindi; however I must shamefully admit that it seemed like a mammoth task initially.
“The Resignation” or Tyagpatra is one of his most popular books published in 1937, and re-published in English (an amazing translation by Rohini Chowdhury) by Penguin India (God Bless them for that) very recently. The book though written in a time when every person was searching for an independent voice and way of life is still very relevant in our democratic society. The Resignation is a story of Mrinal, a young woman whose idealism is so strong that her family and the society around her rejects her completely and she is living on her own, facing situations as they come along.
That is the basic plot. On the other hand, Jainendra weaves the narration from the point of view of Mrinal’s nephew Pramod, who has adored and loved his aunt with deep passion. The themes of independence and family run deep in this book. Also hailed as a novel of psychological sensibility, The Resignation is an insight into life in those times and for a woman nonetheless as someone who is trying to live life on her terms.
What I found most interesting is that the novel is that Jainendra has taken many chances with its structure – from the plot to the way it has been narrated, which is quite refreshing. It almost reminded me of Tagore’s books and rightly so, considering that the themes of feminism (then I am sure not known as that) and individualism are clearly reflected in both their works.
The writing is fantastic. Every word is in its place and most credit goes to the translator (who often gets ignored) for the wonderful derivation of setting, meaning and the right words to add the much needed pace and communicative technique to the book.
The Resignation when it was first published; I am sure created a stir. It broke all rules of traditional sensibilities and that’s what makes it a great read. Indian literature is not what it seems most of the time till discovered and devoured. Great books such as these make it truly a niche genre.