Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Three Men" by Sunil Gangopadhyay -সুনীল গঙ্গোপাধ্যায় -

"Three Men" by Sunil Gangopadhyay -সুনীল গঙ্গোপাধ্যায় - (2000, 4  pages)

Cries in the mud by the thatch'd house sand drain
Sleeps in huge pipes in the wet shit-field rain
waits by the pump well, Woe to the world!
whose children still starve in their mother's arms curled.
Is this what I did to myself in the past?
What shall I do Sunil Poet I asked?
Move on and leave them without any coins?
What should I care for the love of my loins?
(By  Allen Ginsburg upon the occasion of his visit to Bangladesh in 1971 in the company of the great poet, Sunil Gangopandhyay-you can read the full text of "September On Jessore Road"  HERE-it is deeply felt work and a powerful expression of the anguish felt by Ginsburg on seeing the human cost of the 1971 war for the Independence of Bangladesh.)

Sumil Gangopandhyay (1934) was born in Faridpur in what is now Bangladesh.   He currently lives in Kolkata (Calcutta) in India.    He is considered a leading novelist, travel writer, children's book author and is best known as a poet.   He writes in Bengali and English.   He was educated at the University of Calcutta.   He has had a long a very distinguished literary and professional career.   In 2008 he became director of the National Academy of Letters in India.   This is a government funded but administratively independent organization whose purpose is to promote literature and the maintenance of the diverse languages of  India.

"Three Men" is set in a big corporation.   (As social context, Bangladesh is often, fairly or not I do not know, listed as among the most corrupt countries in the world.)   The three men in the story are an ordinary worker, his manager, and the general manager.    Tapan, the worker, has begun to feel more and more self-contempt for his role in the corruption of  the company.   The company was recently involved in a press scandal in which it was documented they withheld baby food supplies in Bangladesh for two weeks in order to make consumers pay much more. This in a country where millions are on the edge of starvation and low value diets in infants cause terrible future problems.    Tapan, not in fact a perfect employee himself-he often misses work with no call in for example-is going into his bosses office to follow up on a denouncing letter he has written in which he gives his resignation.    As you might guess the conversation does not go well.  Tapan then demands as seems to be his right, to speak with the general manager.    As he waits outside the general manger's office he is advised by someone who does not know why he is there that he will from now on be getting a clothing allowance.    Tapan starts to think about his wife (he just got married a year ago and supports his aged father) who wants a house of their own soon.

As he enters the office the general manager tells him he can come in next week to pick up his final paycheck but if he continues ranting in the office he will have him thrown out by security.    As the story ends Tapan begs for a second change.   Before leaving for the day, he stops in the company comfort room.   He spits in his own image in the mirror.

"Three Men"  (written originally in English) is a moving story about a man with a consciousness of right or wrong trapped in a web of corruption.

You can read it HERE

The South Asian Short story is a tremendously rich reading area.    It is very accessible online.    You can easily find brand new stories by well known authors as well as older classic stories works.    The cultural roots of the South Asian Short Story go back beyond the days of Homer and the Old Testament.

I will be sort of focusing on stories about the lives of women and children, the effects of the 1947 partition,  and post colonialism.   The history involved here is delightfully complicated.    I will take this where it leads me with one writer or story leading to another.   Like the Irish to a large extent, writers in this area define themselves by their relationship to the English.    Like the Japanese (I will soon also begin a project on Taisho era short stories) there is much concern about preserving old traditions in the face of the intense attraction of consumer goods and the pervasive power of western culture.  

I am very open to suggestions and joint projects in this.  

Mel u-

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