REVIEW: ANJANA BASU
The Moving Shadow
Electrifying Pulp Fiction
Pulp fiction always has its quota of alcohol, fast women and sleazy men gathered in easy thrill a minute plots. The Moving Shadow is no exception to this rule. Arunava Sinha has gathered together stories from West Bengal and Bangladesh that illuminate the dark side of Bengali literature. The stories have their full complement of disappearing corpses, femme fatales, magicians and ghosts not to mention scientists who turn detective with all kinds of twists and turns thrown in. There are also details like Nina Ricci perfumes and burning Gauloises stubs left in an ashtray to up the sophistication quotient for the bhadroloks for whom the stories were originally intended.
The selection includes authors like Premendra Mitra, Swapan Kumar, Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, Gobindolal Bandyopadhyay and Satyajit Ray, covering the genres of thrillers and horror. There is even an experiment with artificial intelligence where a robot is programmed with emotions by his creator – with devastating results as usually happens in artificial intelligence from Frankenstein onward.
Whatever you’re looking for in the pulp vein, you’ll find in this selection of eight novellas and stories. Premendra Mitra’s story is the most detective and least pulp of the selection and should possibly have been put in a different anthology. Satyajit Ray’s Bhuto is a take on a classic ghost story. The others have a certain endearing naiveté to them implying that the writers’ experiences were not as expansive as the bounds of their imagination, as is often the case with pulp fiction, a fast moving voyage through imagined worlds of death and danger.
Sinha has done his usual adept job of translation and the stories are bound to provide an electrifying introduction to the world of Bengali stories noir for those who have not met the tales in translation before.
Anjana Basu, Kolkata