Tag Archives: Rabisankar Bal

A Mirrored Life by Rabisankar Bal

A Mirrored Life by Rabisankar Bal Title: A Mirrored Life
Author: Rabisankar Bal
Translator: Arunava Sinha
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 9788184006155
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translation
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are books that one is grateful are written. There is no other way to praise them to the skies and recommend them to all and sundry. That is the magic of the written word that can never be contained in any other form. This is then extended to translations, and when it comes to that, more so from Bengali to English, no one does it better than Arunava Sinha who gave us Rabisankar Bal’s Dozakhnama and now he does another favour on the English-speaking reader by giving us “A Mirrored Life” by the same author.

Earlier it was about Ghalib and Manto, and this time round it is about Rumi and Shams of Tabriz. Who in their right mind will not be captivated by this book? The theme was enough for me to get started and be swept by the power of language, emotion, and expression. The book is about Ibn-e-Battuta travelling away to find out more about Rumi’s life and along the way what he uncovers and what is left to speculation. It is but obvious, that when one speaks of Rumi you cannot help but mention Shams. This is how the story intertwines itself and though it may seem that there are two paths, there is just one that of amazement, wonder and life in full bloom.

“A Mirrored Life” is about Battuta chancing upon a manuscript of Rumi’s life stories, given to him by Rumi’s disciples. He then starts reading these tales and reciting them to people he meets along the way to Konya (where Rumi was born and stayed). As he starts getting involved in these tales, he begins to make sense of the world around him and what is really important.

The book is not complex. It is not an easy read either. You have to let go of all inhibitions before reading this book. “A Mirrored Life” touches on so many issues and topics without really specifying them. It gives readers the chance to interact with what the author is thinking and chooses to express through the book. The relationship between Rumi and Shams was of most importance to me as a reader. I could not help but revel in those parts and also the transition of Rumi from a Maulana to a Sufi Saint. The relationships Rumi shared with his wife, his sons and the people of Konya are beautifully described and laid out for the reader.

“A Mirrored Life” makes you look at the world differently and ask difficult questions – ask them to yourself as you turn the pages and that is the tough part. This book overwhelmed me in way too many places, so much so, there were times when I had to stop reading and just contemplate on what I had read. Arunava’s translation is par excellence. I do not know Bengali, but I do know that I did not ever find the need to read the book in Bengali. The translation made no bones of wanting a glossary to be added for words that perhaps regular readers would not understand and that is the way to stay true to the essence of the original.

Rabisankar Bal has just written a book which will take you by surprise and leave you wishing and hoping that it was a longer book, and somehow you don’t need a long book for this theme. It is perfect the way it is – with every word in its place and rhythm that is lilting and takes you to a deeper level. I could not stop recommending this enough on social media and I cannot stop doing the same here. A definite read for all Rumi or literature lovers out there.

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Book Review: Dozakhnama: Conversations in Hell by Rabisankar Bal (Translated by Arunava Sinha)

Dozakhnama by Rabisankar Bal Title: Dozakhnama: Conversations in Hell
Author: Rabisankar Bal
Translator: Arunava Sinha
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 9788184003086
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 544
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Translations are needed – to let us readers know what we have missed out on and what we cannot anymore. I am a champion of translations, only because I wish I could read some works in the language they were written in, but if I cannot do that, then well, a translation suffices any given day. With a book that is translated, there is so much at stake. Are all the emotions translated as well? Are words used the way they are supposed to? Is every phrase and every thought in its place? Maybe so, is punctuation to convey the correct idea? Translation is not easy business. It takes a lot from the translator – it is almost a bond needs to be there between the writer and the translator for sure. With this, I begin my review of, “Dozakhnama: Conversations in Hell” – written by Rabisankar Bal and beautifully translated by Arunava Sinha.

“Dozakhnama” proved to be is a very special read. I read it cover to cover and could not stop reading it. I managed to finish it today and here I am talking about it. The book is about two of my favourite writers conversing beyond the graves – Mirza Ghalib and Sadaat Hasan Manto. Their lives are entwined in shared dreams. The book has all elements – love, anger, hate, jealousy, magic realism (a lot of it and maybe that is one of the reasons I enjoyed the book the way I did), and covers all ground – right from Bandra to Ashok Kumar. This is what I love the most about the book – Bal doesn’t hesitate to imagine and Arunava doesn’t hesitate to work towards getting the emotion right for the reader in English.

The writing had me gripped from the first page and I couldn’t put it down, though it was heavy in most places. While reading the book, I often wondered, how it would sound in the language it was written in. The nuances of Bengali may not have come across totally in English; however I must say the translation was packed with power and to the hilt, as it was supposed to. I will not give away the meaning behind the title, because I want other readers to explore what is there to it. At the same time, what I loved most was the couplets and quotes that kept appearing in the book since but obviously it is about two great writers.

I have yet to come across a translation as good as this one. Arunava as always does a brilliant job of translating works. Dozakhnama is a read that I will not forget for a very long time to come. In fact, if I have the time to reread it, I will do that as well. I cannot stop raving about it and with good reason.

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