Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ties that Bind: There was No One at the Bus Stop


Love was one thing, sin was another – and although it was difficult to tell love from sin, Trina had learnt to identify some of the signs.

Ties that bind human beings together are difficult to unravel. What is that which holds a man with a woman? Love? Affection? Pity? Or simply a necessity, a need not to be lonely in the journey of life.

Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s 1974 Bengali novel Bus Stop – e Keu Nei -  translated into English as There was No One at the Bus Stop - explores one such bond between Trina and Deb. Trina, married to a rich business man and mother of two children, seeks something more than the mansion that her husband has provided for her and in which she flits like a ghost. Deb, a civil-engineer, filled with doubts after the suicide of his wife and aware of his own inadequacy as regards the upbringing of his son, feels that he can start anew with Trina. 

However is it that simple to let go off existing relationships? As the melancholy title suggests often life becomes an endless wait for an elusive something.

The novel’s sparse dialogues make an impression and there are some delightful passages involving Deb’s sister Phuli and her husband Sisir. Interesting also is that the writer doesn’t present the two protagonists as victims but rather as two relatively shallow people whose predicament doesn’t quite generate sympathy for them. Paradoxically, for me, this aspect is also the book’s weakest point as I simply didn’t feel any involvement with Deb and Trina.

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First Line:                    As he was about to leave his room, sleep still clinging to his eyes, Robi gingerly parted the curtains leading to the next room and saw his father.

Published by:              Penguin Books

Year(s) of Publication:    1974, 2010

Pages:                          121

Original Title:              Bus Stop – e –Keu Nei

Author:                        Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay

Translator:                   Arunava Sinha

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There was No One at the Bus Stop is easily available in bookshops and on the Net. My copy was borrowed from the College Library.

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Submitted for the A-Z Reading Challenge. Have now covered the letter T.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Twist in the Tale: In the Fog


"As I felt my way along the wall, I encountered other men who were coming from the opposite direction, and each time when we hailed each other I stepped away from the wall to make room for them to pass. But the third time I did this, when I reached out my hand, the wall had disappeared, and the further I moved to find it the further I seemed to be sinking into space. I had the unpleasant conviction that at any moment I might step over a precipice. Since I had set out I had heard no traffic in the street, and now, although I listened some minutes, I could only distinguish the occasional footfalls of pedestrians. Several times I called aloud, and once a jocular gentleman answered me, but only to ask me where I thought he was, and then even he was swallowed up in the silence. Just above me I could make out a jet of gas which I guessed came from a street lamp, and I moved over to that, and, while I tried to recover my bearings, kept my hand on the iron post. Except for this flicker of gas, no larger than the tip of my finger, I could distinguish nothing about me. For the rest, the mist hung between me and the world like a damp and heavy blanket….



Winter nights, I am convinced, are meant for the reading of mysteries. The sheer silence, the utter desolation, and the deepening darkness all add up to the delight of being snuggled up in a razai with the book in one hand and a hot cup of tea in the other.

I remember reading The Woman in White a couple of years ago. The mist swirled in outside the window, Walter Hartright met Anne Catherick and I shivered in excitement.

So while scouting round for a vintage mystery to read, I simply had to pick up a title that read: In the Fog. And am I glad that this has become my first read of the year. Written by War correspondent and writer, Richard Harding Davis, this turn of the century novella, recounts the meeting of five people in an elitist club on the night after the great fog of London in 1897. One narrates the story of getting lost in the fog and ending up in a house containing two dead bodies – one that of a famous explorer who had but recently returned from his travels and the other that of an exotic Russian adventuress. The story is taken up further by the other members as the night progresses and the needle of suspicion moves from one person to another.

Are they telling the truth? Who is the murderer? Who is lying and who is not? And what about the notes being brought in by the waiter? Harding creates a thrilling atmospheric puzzle that keeps one enthralled.

Reading the book is stepping into another era: Explorers are still exploring the farthest corners of the globe rather than the outer reaches of space; London is lit by gas-lamps rather than neon lights; people travel by horse-driven cabs rather than fuel guzzling automobiles; and Russia still has a czar!

First Line: The Grill is the club most difficult of access in the world.

Year of Publication: 1901

Author: Richard Harding Davis 

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Second hand copies of In the Fog are available on the net. It can also be downloaded for free from many sites. I downloaded it from here:
http://freeread.com.au/ebooks/c00078.txt 

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Submitted for the Vintage Mystery and A - Z Reading Challenge. Have now covered the letter I.