KAVI BANDYAGHATIGAYIYUTE JEEVITAVUM MARANAVUM: Translation of Mahasweta Devi’s Novel by Anand, DC Books, DC Kizhakemuri Edam, Good Shepherd Street, Kottayam-686001. Rs. 75.

IN ‘KOBI Bandyaghatigoye Jeeban O Mrithyu’, a fascinating novel in Bengali, Mahasweta Devi looks into the unbelievably ambitious life-story of a tribal youth from the ancient Choodai community from that part of West Bengal known as ‘Rad Bengal’.

The novel is about a handsome tribal youth, believed to have a lineage traceable to Ekalavya (of the Mahabharata fame), who wants to become a poet of repute, something a Choodai is not supposed to even dream of. The story, which has a mix of love and tragedy, is narrated in a way that brilliantly weaves into it historical elements of tribal Bengal, folklore and a range of human impulses — ambition, greed, thirst for power, cruelty et al. Nature and its eternal forces figure as an undercurrent, surfacing at different levels to give an interesting reading.

Anand’s translation is smooth and reader-friendly. However it is not clear whether he translated it from the original Bengali work or from its English or Hindi versions. While mentioning a musical ensemble, there is reference to ‘Maddalam’ (a typical Kerala percussion instrument) and, in another place, to ‘Mridamgavadya’ (a predominantly south Indian instrument). It must be the ancient Mardalam, an instrument similar to the Packwaj and Khol that are now very popular in the north-eastern parts of India.