Published by Archipelago Books on November, 2010
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Source: complimentary review copy
Amazon / Barnes & Noble
There is a sweet, and I do mean sweeeet, non-profit publishing house called Archipelago Books that is in the business of translating and publishing great works from around the world. My first book from them is a short novel translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha.
The story line is simple – four strangers meet in a train station. The train has broken down and will not arrive until the following morning so the four men decide to pass the time by telling each other a story. There is a government bureaucrat, a contractor, a doctor and a writer. Surprisingly, the topic chosen is unrequited love. The scene is set so beautifully and the writing evokes the chill of the night air.
A pair of newlyweds try to enter the first-class waiting room but when they see the four men hunched over they turn unto themselves and leave back into the cold night. This departure precipitates the men’s talk of love:
“I was wondering how long such days last for them.” Now the Delhi man laughed out loud. “Is that anything to wonder about? Don’t we all know the answer?” “Afterwards, all of us know it, ” spoke the lean-faced book lover, “but at the time none of us does. For instance, can those two even imagine how short-lived it all is? Can they imagine that they will not continue much longer exactly this way? That is the most amazing part of this amazing illusion.”
The “amazing illusion.” That could have been an alternate title for the book although My Kind of Girl fits just as well too.
Ahh, to express the beauty in the simplicity of the four stories shared by the men – how each loved someone unashamedly in his youth. We all have stories of the one who got away – it may have happened when you were 15, 25, or 35 or beyond, but it is a universal condition we share. How interesting it is that an author in Bengali was able to write from a man’s perspective and yet capture all the same feelings that I have felt about the one who got away.
“The memory remains. Ultimately only the memory remains, nothing else.”
There is a light-hearted tenderness to My Kind of Girl. At times there is a devoted passion expressed through the characters and in turn the devotion turns to a tender first love. The travelers are as different as can be yet their stories of a great love lost bring them together for one cold long winter’s night.
Archipelago Books is a not-for-profit press devoted to publishing excellent translations of classic and contemporary world literature. In their first eight years, they have brought out over seventy books from more than twenty languages.
Buddhadeva Bose was born in Bangladesh and grew up with his grandparents. His mother died shortly after giving birth to him and his father spent the next year wandering and in mourning. Bose has been called the greatest poet and writer of Bengal in the 20th century. He was vibrant, exuding energy and tireless in writing. He published 160 titles in his lifetime and so far 200 titles have been published total. His greatest novel is considered to be Tithidore of which the same translator who translated My Kind of Girl is now working on translating Tithidore. I cannot wait to read that one too!