Author: Hemendra Kumar Roy
Translated by Rajat Chaudhuri
9789389136456 | PB | pp. 140 | 2020 | Niyogi Books
Calcutta Nights by Hemendra Kumar Roy describes the real life story of the author whose pseudonym was ‘Meghnad Gupta’ in Calcutta of the early twentieth century.
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Calcutta Nights (Raater Kolkata) is the real-life story of the enigmatic ‘Meghnad Gupta’, pen name of famed Bengali fiction writer Hemendra Kumar Roy. Translated into English by Rajat Chaudhuri almost a century after the first publication of Raater Kolkata in 1923, Roy reveals to contemporary readers the darkest secrets of an earlier Calcutta.
The first two decades of the last century, the backdrop for this book, were politically turbulent times. Those days, Calcutta, the erstwhile capital of British India, was teeming with people from different parts of the country besides Europeans and other foreigners. It was a city of sin, pleasure and suffering. Indians who arrived and settled here mingled with locals, some of them picking up dress, manners and the wanton lifestyles of the Bengali ‘babu’ while others kept their identities intact. All this created a unique cosmopolitan setting, coloured with shades of debauchery, darkness and crime that this first-hand account brilliantly recounts.
Written in an age very different from ours, certain views of the author could be jarring for the present times. However, these need to be tempered by the understanding of the sociopolitical contexts and the distance of a century separating us from Meghnad Gupta’s Calcutta. Calcutta Nights is the Hootum Pyanchar Naksha (published in 1862 and penned by Kaliprasanna Sinha) of the early twentieth century a book that will help anyone understand the contrasts and colours of a unique Indian metropolis.
Hemendra Kumar Roy
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About the Contributors
The author who wrote under the pseudonym of ‘Meghnad Gupta’ was also known as the emperor of adventure stories. His contribution to 20th century Bengali literature covering adventure, detective, and supernatural plots inspired movie hits like Bees Saal Baad (Twenty Years Later) and Jawkher Dhan (The Treasure and its Ghost). He pioneered the Bengali science-fiction and detective story traditions. Born in Kolkata, Roy also published essays and was closely associated with a number of literary magazines.
The translator has published six books in two languages including fiction and translation. He selected and edited The Best Asian Speculative Fiction (2018) collection of stories and is an editor of a forthcoming Asia-Pacific solar-punk anthology to be co-published by RIHN, Japan and World Weaver Press, US. Chaudhuri’s climate change novel, The Butterfly Effect (2018) is listed as one of ‘Fifty Must-Read Eco-disasters in Fiction’ by Book Riot (US) and has been widely mentioned in national media for its parallels with the Covid-19 pandemic.
He has won a number of writing fellowships and international residency awards including British Council administered Charles Wallace Fellowship (UK), Hawthornden Fellowship (Scotland, UK), Ministry of Culture, Korea (ARKO)-INKO residency award (South Korea), Villa Sarkia residency award (Finland, invited 2020) and Sangam House (India) residency.
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