Change and craft

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 13.12.09

Mahabodhi Society, off College Street, is not the best-known address for a book launch. But under the high ceiling of its hall, which needs a coat of paint, the publishers Offbeat were releasing their latest book: Comunis O Onyanyo (Comunis and Others), a collection of short novels by Raghab Bandyopadhyay.

“Comunis” is a “subaltern” mispronunciation of “Communists”. Bandyopadhyay, like some of his contemporaries, had turned to writing after his involvement with the Naxalite movement. Comunis goes back to those days of violence and many feel it can boast of an accomplishment that has remained outside the reach of the many well-known writers. It does not have the staples of fiction: romance, the stress of daily life, or even much characterisation. There is only “action”, through a series of moments that bring to life a savage social predicament.

When he wrote Comunis, what he wrote was more important than the craft, said Bandyopadhyay, whose recent works include Sotik Jadunagar, a novel on Calcutta. That changed later.

But Bandyopadhyay is still accused of writing cerebral, difficult stuff. The writer said that though he did not in any way mean that popular fiction should be looked down on, he did not write in the popular mode. “I don’t want to entertain the reader,” he said. Besides, when he is writing, there is a part of him that is also a reader. “And I don’t think my writing is difficult,” he laughed.

On a more serious note, he added that once a book is written, it becomes a commodity. There’s no escape. So his writing tries to resist commodification from inside the book.