Author: Sunil Gangopadhyay
Publishing Date: 17 October 2014
Language: Bengali, English
Translator: Aruna Chakravarti
India has a treasure trove of regional literature. Not many of us are aware how rich and diverse regional literature can be. The first book in the regional literature category of my blog is Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Primal Woman. It is originally written in Bengali and translated into English by Aruna Chakravarti.
This anthology begins with the title story: Primal Woman. It is the tale of Lilith, the first woman ever created. Yes! even before Eve. It’s an astonishing tale of a free-spirited and bold Lilith who likes to challenge the norms and wants to be Adam’s equal. God created her to complement Adam. But Adam’s domineering nature could not stand the fact that Lilith didn’t want to be controlled. As a result, the Angels and Adam banished her from The Garden of Eden and secluded her to the caves. The rest of the story depicts the fate of Lilith and how she creates her own destiny. This is my favourite story from the anthology. It’s an excellent tale which acts as a mirror to the present state of our society.
The rest of the stories in Primal Woman are mainly set in rural Bengal and portray the lives of poor men and women who struggle to make ends meet. The stories depict how a mother leaves her home and the notions of chastity to feed her children, how an Englishman finds himself homeless in his adopted country when The East India Company decides to sell his house, and many others. The tales trace the dreams of men and women from the forgotten bylanes of Calcutta to the village of Chitalmari, and further back in time, to the mysterious cave where the shadow of Buddha still appears. Every story has a sense of self and is filled with the search of faith.
Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Primal Woman is a must read for those who want to discover India through literature. This anthology is a wonderful depiction of life in rural Bengal. The characters are raw and real, desperate to survive and make ends meet. Pick this book to get a glimpse of what life is all about.