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, May 5, 2011

"Before the Stars Could Foretell" by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay

"Before the Stars Could Foretell" by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay-শরদিন্দু বন্দোপাধ্যায়-(1998, 6 pages, translated from Bengali by Indrani Chakrabatory)

A War Between Cousins in 1500BC 
A Story Inspired by the Mahabharata Epic

Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay (1899-1970, Jaunpurin, Uttar Pradesh, India) is best known for his creation of what some would call the Sherlock Holmes or Father Brown of India, Byomkesh Bakshi.   After graduating from college, he obtained a 
law degree.   He began to publish literary works while in law school.   In 1938 he moved to Calcutta to be a screen writer for the film industry.   By 1958 his works were such best sellers that he became a full time writer.    He is famous for his historical tales set in the Bronze and Iron Age in Northern India.   He drew
on the great epics of Indian literature and gave them a human face.

"Before the Stars Could Foretell" is set in Northern India, around 1500 BC at the time of the Kurukshetra War.    The precise details of this war
are lost to us but Bandyopadhyay does a good job of making it come back to life for us.    As the story opens we meet two very good friends who led an army against their neighbors and defeated them.    They are such good friends that each one wants the other to have the honor of being king of the area the conquered.   They came up with a very interesting way to divide up the ruling of the kingdom.   One friend would start out as king and pass the title to his friend on the next lunar eclipse.  The friend who is not king will act as head of the army.   All goes well in the kingdom for a while until there is a revolt in the southern territories.  The general takes the army to fight  the rebels.  

One of the friends returns with a captured princess.    This infuriates the rebels and they renew their fight.   The general leaves the princess in the care of the king and asks him to instruct her in their language (as of now they cannot speak to each other) as he intends to marry her.   The princess is very intelligent and quickly learns the language.   She argues that it is against their mutual traditions and law to abduct women.   She is told, in a remark that is a commentary on some the still prevailing customs of the area, that there is nothing wrong with abducting a woman if you intend to marry her!

There is an interesting and fun twist at the end I will not spoil  it for potential readers.

This is a well told story.    It is hard to do a short story as historical fiction as you do not have a lot of space and time to set the background but Bandyopathyay does a good job of making the past come to life for us.   

You can read the story HERE

I enjoyed this story and endorse it as an interesting read.  

Mel u

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds great, I might give it a try later on. However, I don't know why, Indian literature does not appeal to me as much as any other postcolonial national genres.

Thanks anyway for the recommendation, as a Sherlock Holmes lover I am very interested on his international counterparts.