Short Book Review: The Birth of the Maitreya by Bani Basu

SBR: The Birth of the Maitreya is the English translation of a book by Bani Basu which is considered a modern Bengali classic. But I didn’t really like the book. I went through it because I want to learn more about the different period of India history, and I like historical fiction as a vehicle. Set in the time of Buddha and tracing the politics and intrigues of the different Indian kingdoms of the time, especially Bimbisara’s Magadha and Prasenjit’s Kosala with a dash of Takshashila and Avanti, the book’s canvas and the complexities it attempts of tackle are admirable. But the characters are confused mix of traits, motivations, and stages of mental development; and the descriptions of the courts, bazaars, people’s wealth and social settings appear to be an appeal to our fantasies more than an attempt to recreate realistic history. Modern concerns of nationalism, feminism, tribal issues, science have been unabashedly spouted by characters situated in a very different era. Discussion of timeless or contemporary issues through historical fiction is an admirable goal, but its execution is not easy and the attempt doesn’t succeed in the book.

To read or not to read: No. Unless, like me, you are also on a mission to read everything related to Indian history or historical fiction.

Short Book Review: The Greatest Bengali Stories Even Told by Arunava Sinha

The Greatest Bengali Stories Even Told by Arunava SinhaSBR: Arunava Sinha is a terrific and prolific translator of Bengali literature. So if there is a translation of Bengali stories done by him, I guess you have to pick it up. The stories are from various Bengali authors, many of them famous and well-known, spanning multitudes of genres. So there isn’t much to review. It’s a good book to have.

To read or not to read: If you are not set against reading short stories, there is no reason why you shouldn’t.