Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Menagerie and other Byomkesh Bakshi Mysteries - Saradindu Bandyopadhyay

The book is a delightful read. Sreejata Guha does a nice job of translating the Bengali original. The stories themselves are more or less simple and free-flowing. This is the kind of book with which you want to settle down after a wonderful lunch or a lavish dinner. The mysteries aren’t too complex and neither are the plots ‘heavy’ with too much treachery.

The two short stories, ‘The Jewel Case’ and ‘The Will That Vanished’, are solved with a certain heart-warming quality that Byomkesh Babu has. The other two mysteries, ‘The Menagerie’ and ‘The Quills of the Porcupine’, are novella length and are a testimony to the author’s ability to narrate a seemingly complex tale in a lucid and simple manner. My favourite story has to be ‘The Quills of the Porcupine’ where Byomkesh Bakshi is called in to stop a serial killer.

The most enjoyable aspect of this book is the description of old world Calcutta. The author is simply describing what he sees around him. This results not only in unique snapshot images of Calcutta in the early ‘50s but also the Bengali lifestyle and the culture of the time. The telephone and fridge are still a novelty and every visitor to the house is treated to “sandesh and sweet lassi chilled with ice cubes”. Also described in delightful detail are the ‘adda’ sessions that Bengalis are so famous for. In ‘The Quills…’, there is constant reference to the tea-parties that a group of bachelors have at a gentleman’s place, often accompanied with one of the friends settling down to sing a tune on the piano while the rest either play chess or discuss films.

I can’t wait to lay my hands on the other Byomkesh Bakshi book ‘Picture Imperfect’. I have already searched at Crossword and the Oxford Bookstore on Park Street, only to be told that the book is out of stock. ~sigh~


Manasa said...

Nice review... But we don't find all the stories in a single book :(

Shekhar said...

manasa: Hey, thanks for the compliment. And yeah, I too had to search high and low for "Picture Imperfect" before I finally found it. It has a couple of other stories which are really nice. You must get yourself a copy. Happy book hunting!! :)

Anonymous said...

u can get Picture imperfect from online sites like autsun.com