BOOK REVIEW: THE MOVING SHADOW: ELECTRIFYING BENGALI PULP FICTION

The Moving Shadow is a collection of eight novellas from Bengali pulp fiction. The stories are translated by Arunava Sinha.

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The Moving Shadow by Arunava Sinha
The Moving Shadow by Arunava Sinha is a collection of eight Bengali novellas from the pulp fiction genre

Author: Various

Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Publishing Date: 20 September 2018

Pages: 256

Translator: Arunava Sinha

Languages: Bengali , English

Country: India

Rating: 5/5

I haven’t come across a lot of Bengali pulp fiction. The Moving Shadow was a great book to start. As the tagline suggests, the stories in this collection are truly electrifying and they’ll keep you hooked till the end. The Moving Shadow has eight tales of crime and horror, written by prolific Bengali writers. I had already read a few stories by Premendra Mitra and Satyajit Ray, but this book introduced some new authors like Swapan Kumar and Muhammed Zafar Iqbal to me.

The tales are divided into two categories: crime and horror. The crime stories feature a plethora of characters and were very intriguing. Maniacal murderers, spies, a mysterious Bidri bowl and a robot who falls in love are the main themes of the crime stories. I loved the pace and characterizations in these stories. I loved the eponymous story by Swapan Kumar, which is a thrilling battle of wits between a detective and a shadowy organisation. Another story which I enjoyed reading was Muhammed Zafar Iqbal’s Copotronic Love. It’s a different take on ‘Frankenstein’ where a scientist creates the world’s first ’emotional’ robot.

The horror stories in The Moving Shadow are spooky rather than gruesome. They are more like psychological thrillers than actual ghost stories so readers who are not keen on the horror genre can also enjoy them. My favorite story was Bhuto by Satyajit Ray, where a ventriloquist’s dummy goes rogue. Another spooky tale was Saradindu and This Body by Gobindolal Bandopadhyay, where a psychiatrist has schizophrenia.

There is a certain high quality to Bengali literature and it often overshadows stories like ones in The Moving Shadow. Pulp fiction is often considered ‘light and frivolous’ but one can’t deny how entertaining it is. The stories are fast paced with earthy characters. However I found the categories some what unnecessary. Some of the stories cannot be categorised in Crime or Horror. For instance, Copotronic Love is more science fiction than crime or horror. The same case is with Adhrish Bardhan’s The Moon is Back.

I think The Moving Shadow is a great introduction to modern Bengali pulp fiction. I was surprised to know that it predates modern Bengali Literature as well. Translations often loose the essence of the original content but Arunava Sinha has done a stellar job in capturing the tone and essence of each story in The Moving Shadow.

If you want to explore more of India’s regional literature, than I urge you to pick this book. The Moving Shadow is a great book to spend those long, rainy evenings as well. In whichever way you want to read, The Moving Shadow will surely keep you intrigued till the end.

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