Dozakhnama, Conversations In Hell between Ghalib and Manto is written by Rabi Sankar Bal in Bengali and has been translated into English by a very well known translator Arunava Sinha. When Random House India (Publisher of Dozakhnama) got in touch with me about having a bloggers meet with Arunava, I couldn’t say no because the book is a fantastic piece of writing and I was curious to know how Arunava managed to translate it.
We were invited to Cafe Flipside at Hauz Khas Village on a Sunday morning. Three bloggers, Arvind Passey ( @ArvindPassey ) , Raka Majumdar ( @EsotericPhoenix ) and me were invited for the meet. Rockstar Rukun and Shruti from Random House India were also there.
Coffee and Cheesecake was served and it didn’t take much time to break the ice between all of us and the conversations just flowed. Arunava joined us after some time and we all kinda pounced on him with our questions as we all were too excited to know more about the book and Arunava’s experience while translating it.
Arunava has got a full time job and translating Bengali literature to English is his passion. He told us how he got hold of the book and within just 10 weeks, he translated this 500+ page book in English. This fact was something I couldn’t have imagined. I personally thought, it would have taken him a year or so to translate this book. Arunava also told us about his upcoming projects and the translations done by him in the past.
Arunava Said, “If original writing is good, its easier to translate” and also Arunava shared that “I think of myself as Peter Sellers of writing. I’m waiting for a similar breakdown to happen to me.” and a lot of other things including that, at times the characters from the books that he has translated so far have silent conversations with him in his head. The intensity of the discussions kept getting interesting with each passing second and then an offer was made by Arunava that none of us could have thought of.
Arunava asked if we would like to speak with Rabi Sankar Bal, the author of Dozakhnama and we were like HELL YES !! Raka was clearly excited about the whole thing because she would get to speak to someone in Bengali and she totally cherished those moments while speaking with the author over phone. We all spoke with Rabi Sankar Bal in turns and that was definitely the highlight of the meet. Totally unexpected.
Post the phone call, we all got our copies of Dozakhnama signed by Arunava and also posed for a group picture and discussed loads of books, about our work, lives, publishing industry and a lot of random stuff. Time was running out but no one was in a mood to leave. The conversations just kept getting better and better with passing time. But, like all good things, this meet ended with some fond memories to cherish.
Dozakhnama is not a book that you would want to finish in a single seating. This book has to be devoured slowly and steadily. A lot of things take time to sink in and its convoluted narrative takes a toll on you but still you want to read the book and understand the plight of both Ghalib and Manto as they tell stories to each other in this dastaan.
I strongly recommend this book if you are too fond of Ghalib and Manto. This book takes you to a different journey altogether where you feel like you are sitting and listening to their endless stories and how tough their life was. Dozakhnama is a book for keeps, it is something that would add a new dimension to your personal library. Review of the book would be up in a couple of days as I am currently reading it and loving each and every word of it.