Author: Nabarun Bhattacharya
Translated by Sunandini Banerjee

9780857426499 | HB | pp. 166 | 2019 | Seagull Books

Herbert is a wild, tender, energetic portrayal of a doomed young man and a city struggling to resist forces that, alas, prove to be entirely beyond their control.

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May 1992. In Russia, Boris Yeltsin is showing millions of communists the spectre of capitalism. Yugoslavia is disintegrating. United Germany is uncertain about their next move, and communism is collapsing all around. And in a corner of old Calcutta, Herbert Sarkar, sole proprietor of a company that delivers messages from the dead, decides to give up the ghost. Decides to give up his aunt and uncle, his friends and foes, his fondness for kites, his aching heart that broke for Buki, his top terrace from where he stared up at the sky, his Ulster overcoat with buttons like big black medals, his notebook full of poems, his Park Street every evening when the sun goes down, his memory of a Russian girl running across the great black earth as the soldiers lift their guns and get ready to fire, his fairy who beat her wings against his window and filled his room with blue light . . .

Now in a new translation, Herbert, the beloved cult favourite by Nabarun Bhattacharya, and winner of the 1997 Sahitya Akademi Award, is a ‘scathingly satiric, wildly energetic, and yet depply tender’ portrayal of a doomed young man and a city struggling to resist forces that, alas, prove to be entirely beyond their control.


Nabarun Bhattacharya
Translator: Sunandini Banerjee







Year of Publication:



Seagull Books





Country of Origin:


About the Contributors

The author (1948–2014) was born into a family of writers, filmmakers, artists and academics—his father was playwright Bijan Bhattacharya; his mother, writer and activist Mahasweta Devi; his maternal grandfather, well-known Kallol-era writer, Manish Ghatak. Educated at Ballygunge Government School, Bhattacharya went on to study geology at Asutosh College and then English literature at City College.

A journalist from 1973 to 1991 at a foreign news agency, he gave up that career in order to become a full-time writer. Herbert was published in 1992 and won the Bankim and Sahitya Akademi awards. Some of his best-known works are Kangal Malshat (2003), Ei Mrityu Upotyoka Aamaar Desh Na (2004) and Phyataroor Bombachak (2004). Novelist and short-story writer, he was also a prolific poet and, from 2003 until his death, editor of the Bhashabandhan journal.

The translator is a Calcutta-based graphic artist and editor who has illustrated books by Thomas Bernhard, Yves Bonnefoy and Ivan Vladislavic, among others.


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