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A divine version of ourselves

Published @ Bibilo India
In the autumn of 2017, Bengal, as usual, was abuzz with the seasonal cacophony of the pre- Durga Puja media blitzkrieg. There were advertisements pasted across streets and the media canvassed everything.One particular advertisement irked the born-again Rightwingers, who, in this province at least, seemed to have sprung from the woodwork. It concerned a leading salon chain headed by a Muslim entrepreneur. Its sweet, cheeky advertisement depicted the entourage of Durga and her wards making a quick visit to the…

The contradictory Bengali

Published @ Biblio India
A bhadrolok is someone taken to be urbane and informed, with genteel manners and liberal political values, whose authority derives not from class or birth but from having attained a cultural referentiality through education and through participation in enlightened debates. Here, two books by two eminent bhadralok Bengalis are being reviewed by another – not eminent but self- confessed – bhadralok Bengali. Does this reinforce the self-assured, self-governing, self-congratulatory and hermetically sealed world of the Bengali bhadralok? It apparently does.

The Flaneur Outpaces A Tram

Published @ Outlook India
Calcutta — city of broken dreams and of crusty, magnetic charm. A young hack’s progress through its florid past and dented present winks at death itself. Having escaped certain death by a Nazi firing squad, the enigmatic French philosopher Maurice Blanchot dedicated the rest of his long life to understand how the act of writing itself can be the most assured insurance against the inevitability of death, of erasure. The Epic City reminded me of Blanchot’s pronouncements. In this book, with the…

The family and the city

Published @ Biblio India
Chandak Sengoopta has had a less-than-conventional training. He studied to be a medical doctor in Calcutta, did his doctoral research in the US on the history of medicine and is now a historian of colonial and postcolonial India in Birkbeck College, London. His first book was a study of the notorious Viennese philosopher Otto Weininger’s controversial work on identity, while his next two books – Imprint of the Raj: How Fingerprinting was Born in Colonial India (Macmillan, 2003)…

The Shame Is Squarely On Them

Published @ Outlook India
Taslima’s solipsistic atomism jars, but one must admire her spirit in the face of slimy intolerance An autobiography called Exile is bound to invoke a dreary sense of deja vu, if for nothing else, but for the sheer weight of the word; and the impossibility of improving upon its literary and political foundations. And honestly, since when has exile not haunted a writer or his work? Look attentively to just the twentieth century and you’ll see a Jean Genet or James…
By Sayandeb Chowdhury | | Tags: Book Review, Gender | Read More

Crucible Of Intellect

Published @ Outlook India
As I write this review, India is in the middle of another proxy war, televised hate speech is deified as prime-time journalism and a cynical public is deeply divided and communalised. In such times, an anthology that ennobles the opposite of these ailments is a surprising, but welcome, infringement. It is difficult to imagine a time when politicians were also statesmen, read widely and debated vigorously, when they agreed to disagree with civility and yet partook in an…

The Irrepressible City of Modernity

Published @ Economic & Political Weekly (EPW)
Clive Street, Calcutta, early 20th century. Photographer Unknown. Historiography of the modern city must be cognisant of the historical moment in which the metropolitan space made the first gains from modernity as a deterritorialised and yet organising principle of self-articulation. The modern city is the first global space in the modern period, a space beyond narrow nationality, compressed social hierarchy and older orthodoxy. Moreover, that historiography is to be, unsurprisingly, contestable, complicated as it gets by the multiplicity of articulation,…
By Sayandeb Chowdhury | | Tags: Book Review, Calcutta | Read More

14 Zakaria Street – Kalkatta

Published @ Biblio
Kunal Basu’s latest novel Kalkatta is unlike his earlier four. It is not historical in scope and neither does it contain the soaring drama that distant time lends to his period narratives. Like its predecessors, however, Kalkatta lets an iconic novel or two hang like a noose around its neck. If Racists replayed the primary tension of Lord of the Flies and The Miniaturist that of My Name is Red, Kalkatta unfailingly reminds one of Émile Zola’s The Belly of…

Passing through the popular

Published @ Biblio India
Baradwaj Rangan has been writing on various aspects of Indian cinema for several years now. He is a Senior Editor with The Hindu but the articles collected in the book have been sourced also from his former stints at The New Indian Express and New Sunday Express. A few of them have also appeared in more serious long-form journals, like Caravan. Divided into six sections – actors, Hindi cinema, directors, music, Tamil cinema, reviews – Dispatches covers 20 years and many hundred reels of cinema in…
By Sayandeb Chowdhury | | Tags: Book Review, Cinema | Read More