July 28, 2020
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An Alien in Time

Stirring indictment of souls caught between rustic memories and urban existence

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An Alien in Time
Jibananda Das - Short Fiction, 1931-33
By Gautam Chakravarty
Srishti Rs: 195; Pages : 216
JIBANANDA Das was a poet of exilic learning. But his sense of displacement was in time. His poetry is governed by an idea of collective memory which transcends history. This collection of six stories written by the poet between '31 and '33 is a significant step in making his little-known prose popular outside Bengal. The sensibility that informs his prose is the same that finds expression in his poetry—preoccupation with the irreconcilable worlds of primordial memories discovered in the wilderness of the Bengal countryside and the drudgery of urban existence in Calcutta. The stories emphasise a tragedy that became the poet's own. The protagonists wage a relentless battle to reclaim lost time by indulging in expansive, dream-like forays into rural Bengal, but they all end in despair and death. Rimbaud saw a poet's salvation in being transformed into a seer and Jibananda achieved that elusive oracular vision. An unemployed, hen-pecked husband, absorbed in his Proustian search, the poet's understated, poetic life seems to have reached fulfilment when he was crushed under a tram—an epitome of narcissistic alienation that was his own.
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