My English translation of the late Bangladeshi writer Mahmudul Haque’s Kalo Barof was released in January 2012 by HarperCollins India.
From the back of the book:
Everything becomes a story one day. Louhojong, Louhojong! For the first time in his life, that cry had pierced his ears in the deep of the night. Beside him stood Moni Bhaijaan, in his pocket a ribbon, on the ribbon the fragrance of hair, in the fragrance such sorrow, in the sorrow so much love, in the love so much of their childhood.
Abdul Khaleq teaches in a crumbling old college in a village in newly independent Bangladesh. His life is mostly on an even keel until he sits down to chronicle his childhood – an endeavour that draws him inexorably into his memories and into an enchanting world somewhere in suburban Calcutta. He remembers the girl who spoke to fish and birds, the girl he first loved. He recalls the stream of visitors to his parents’ door those days, some bearing want, some malice and others, generosity and wisdom. As those memories return him to a time when communal tension was gathering force in undivided Bengal and the trauma it brought to his younger self, Khaleq’s remembrance stops being a pleasant retreat. He becomes desperately despondent.
Khaleq’s relentless nostalgia enrages his wife Rekha, who resents his lack of ambition and aloofness. Prodded by the village physician, Doctor Narhari, the couple embark on a boat ride that forces them to confront their discord and desires, and plumb the roots of Abdul Khaleq’s alienation.
First published in 1977 in Bengali, Black Ice draws on Mahmudul Haque’s own experience of Partition to intimately probe the invisible scars bequeathed to the inheritors of Partition.
The book is available from outlets in India and Bangladesh. The ebook version is available from Amazon in the U.S. Outside India, search for the author Mahmudul Haque at bookfinder.com.
In the Daily Star‘s Eid Supplement 2012, I published an essay on translating this book. From Kalo Borof to Black Ice: a translator’s journey