A Novella That Ticks Like a Bomb

Siddhartha Deb at The Paris Review:

I first came across the work of Nabarun Bhattacharya (1948–2014) about a decade ago in Calcutta, after a long afternoon of wandering conversation of the kind that Bengalis call adda, a session that no doubt included numerous cups of tea, many cigarettes, much talk about books, films, and politics before peaking, in the evening, with kebabs and cheap Indian rum. These freewheeling hours of aimless mental flaneurie that make no concessions to modernity’s iron cage of productivity and self-improvement have their own usefulness. Somewhere in the course of that day, from the recommendations of my companions, I ended up buying a copy of Harbart.

The book was printed, in the manner characteristic of Bengali publishing, as an emaciated hardboard volume that resembled a pamphlet more than a hardback. Yet appearances can be deceptive, and in this case, in more ways than one. The slimness of Harbart, like the seeming fragility of its eponymous protagonist, was mere camouflage. It wasn’t a book so much as a bomb, assembled with precision and intent.

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