Jump to navigation. The world becomes a checker-board of black and white, whereas most of us know it to be a snakes-and-ladders surface where one can arbitrarily be pulled down or given a leg-up. Of course, there are the literary exceptions, prime among them works by Koestler, Camus, Sartre. Nasreen's Lajja, finally available in translation, is not one such. As storytelling, it is weak: excessively rhetorical, simplistic in many ways, choosing to declare rather than evoke, lacking a narrative drive as powerful as the subject it tackles. Having said all that, Nasreen's controversial bestseller deserves our admiration.
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Taslima Nasrin wrote Lajja, previously translated as Shame, in , after four novels and several collections of poetry and essays. By the time it came out, she was well-known in her homeland, Bangladesh, for her strong views against patriarchy and religious bigotry, expressed in a popular newspaper column, though it was Lajja that changed her life dramatically. The novel, initially conceived as a documentary, was banned in Bangladesh. It earned her a bounty on her head from Islamic fundamentalists, forced her to flee the country, and turned her into an international icon for human rights as well as one of the most controversial literary figures from the subcontinent.
Written as a response to the wave of communal violence that rose in Bangladesh after the demolition of Babri Masjid in India in , Lajja is not only an invaluable historical document but also a text whose relevance has—unfortunately—not been diminished in the two decades it was published.
Lajja chronicles the terrifying disintegration of a Hindu family living in Bangladesh in the aftermath of the riots that break out to avenge the destruction of the mosque in India.
Hundreds of temples across Bangladesh are ground to dust or desecrated, Hindu men are butchered, women raped, houses burnt to cinders, and property confiscated.
The Dattas, as Nasrin reveals, are divided on the question of staying on in the land they have always thought of as their home. Their ancestral seat in the village, once thriving and prosperous, has been usurped by their Muslim neighbours, forcing them to seek refuge in a rented house in Dhaka.
However, Sudhamoy stubbornly, desperately, and naively holds on to his faith in the inherent goodness of fellow human beings, even at a time when his allies are turning against his family.
His son Suronjon is more vulnerable to the circumstances. Like his father, Suranjon refuses to run away from the country of his birth or give in to communal sentiments he had condemned all his life, but his feelings begin to shift after a terrible tragedy visits the family.
Yet, in spite of its sustained ethical complexity, Lajja is not a literary masterpiece. Far more nuanced accounts of communal violence have been fictionalized by writers from Bangladesh, such as Akhtaruzzaman Ilyas and Selina Hossein.
The new translation by Anchita Ghatak , an improvement on the previous one in its attempt to preserve the flavour of the original including the title , is competent, though not without lapses.
Apart from a couple of typos, the quote on page from Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations is repeated twice. For an excerpt from the book, visit www.
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Lajja: Shame | Taslima Nasrin | Book Review
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Book review: Taslima Nasreen's 'Lajja, Shame'
The book was first published in in Bengali and was subsequently banned in Bangladesh. Nasrin dedicated the book "to the people of the Indian subcontinent ," beginning the text with the words, "let another name for religion be humanism. Lajja is a response of Taslima Nasrin to anti-Hindu riots that erupted in parts of Bangladesh, soon after the demolition of Babri Masjid in India on 6 December The book subtly indicates that communal feelings were on the rise, the Hindu minority of Bangladesh was not fairly treated, and secularism was under shadow. The demolition has repercussions in Bangladesh.