Friday, September 30, 2011

A better half truth

Book Review/Fiction: The Good Muslim by Tehmima Anam, Penguin Books, New Delhi, 2011
297pp; Rs499 {HB}, ISBN 978-0-670-08289-6
Year 1971, was proved epoch-making for East Bengal…this year, culturally aggrieved peoples natural boisterousness against the despotic and alien rulers of Pakistan found shape. Bangladesh, a nation was born, primarily on the basis of cultural distinctness…but is it remained same in the course of time? Which factors led to radicalization and changing of lives away from liberal socio-religious principles? Tehmima Anam, an author of repute with her debut novel, A Golden Age has closely searched the uncomfortable changes in Bangladesh in her second work, The Good Muslim. Forty years on, this discourse of being good or bad with ones Muslim self has its significance intact as unfortunately more than anything else, today faith is being maligned by the nasty elements and alarmingly they have led over the ethical minds!

Tehmima deserves the universal attention for leading a broadly conceptualized literary writing in Bangladesh; remarkable is the fact, she has spent a significant time outside of country. That’s only being evident with her superb narratives in English…the best thing is, in this regard, she never lost her insiders views on the issues that haunting her and her fellow countrymen, who prefers to be good human and Muslim than getting submerged in the narrow wave of radicalism. Set in the streets of Dhaka and rural Bangladesh, The Good Muslim is an epic story of Bangladeshi family, that met to radical transformation and causing uncomfort to the protagonist Maya Haque and entire liberal social structure. Maya, who justifies through act the title of book, The Good Muslim is in utter shock after remaining away for eight years. On her reinstation of social/familiar interaction, she realizes her surroundings have changed awkwardly and nation’s promises have altered blindly. Maya, still to the core is in struggle to be good with her family, social role, nation and also with her religious identity but hardship which she faces vehementally reminds the plight of liberal voices and dualism of State as most powerful entity.

This book is grounded and imagined on the Bangladeshi soil, so overtly resembles the maximum reality from that side. Albeit the crux of plot has universal meaning and I hardly think anyone can doubt over the fact that the biggest challenges that humanity encountering today is coming from the misinterpretation of religions. There lie the wide strategic interests of nations and essentially of radical traders. Tehmima with her protagonist, has cited towards a mean path, where world is out of extremes but in great strain. There is suffering and no bailing out from collective order…may be, this real scene will have overarching effects, suitably with rational religious practices or simply keeping religion out from the collective order.

On the literary forefront, if the grave issues could be debated without nurturing the frills of controversy, its sure must be ranked as an accomplishment par excellence. What Tehmima has done with her work is a formidable case of similar choices. Through literature, my understanding has grown up over Bangladesh, especially with reading both of her works. Similarly, the readers from South Asia will be found her take closer to their own imagination. From another angle, English literary writing has reached to the complete maturity in Indian subcontinent; Tehmima’s consistent endeavour along with many other remarkable writers from the region showing the desired integration of South Asia in literary arena.

What is best with the contemporary writing is, it’s walking with the time and is in distance from the typicalities of any bandwagon. That’s indeed giving the real stories a complete space of expression and putting aside the potential prominence of trivia which was once a trend and now only an abandoned choice. This book should go well with the targeted readers of Bangladesh; afterall they are the victims of choices, even after living in a sort of democracy. Words with better meanings must be acknowledges well, as action can be resolute from these ideas and there lies the chances of a better world…out of despair and angst!
Atul Kumar Thakur
September 30, 2011, Friday, New Delhi


  1. Anam...... giving real space of imagination, and Atul...........too.., good one.

  2. Nice once again..
    Ruchita Misra, Author/TheIn EligibleBachelors]

  3. read parts of your blog. How often do you review books? You have quite a variety uploaded. Don't you link to the articles that you publish in other magazines?
    With best wishes,
    Jaya Bhattacharji Rose