One of the earliest examples of an individualistic, determined and strong female lead in literature, Jane Eyre, is a personal favourite. Though she is faced with dire circumstances from childhood, she perseveres and grows into a resilient young woman. She manages to successfully retain her autonomy and displays considerable agency time and again as she is threatened by hostile individuals and circumstances. Jane Eyre is strongly aligned with her principles through which she challenges the prejudices faced by women and the underprivileged in Victorian society, and remains true to herself. Through the progression of the novel, the way in which she learns to resist her impulses and exercise self-control, is also particularly commendable.
Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is one of the most popular female characters in English literature and serves as a role model to many young readers. Steadfast, intelligent and fiercely loyal, Hermione comes to the rescue of her two best friends several times throughout the series. Hermione’s courage and bravery know no bounds as she overcomes many obstacles in the course of the novels. Her bookish charm wins you over from the word go and she effectively breaks the stereotype that ‘nerdy’ isn’t ‘cool’ by unapologetically embracing her ‘nerdiness’. From an eleven-year-old bookworm, Hermione grows into a charming, loyal and pragmatic young woman.
Lady Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most powerful and bold female characters. She exhibits cold-heartened ruthlessness and a burning ambition for power and status from the start of the play. As the plot develops, she cunningly manipulates her husband and convinces him to overcome his moral objections in committing murder. Ultimately Lady Macbeth resigns to fate unable to bear the overwhelming guilt of her devious actions. Written in the late 1500s, Lady Macbeth’s character made an important statement in a patriarchal society where women were repressed and reduced to their domestic duties.
Josephine March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has become one of the most loved female characters by young readers. Jo March defies the traditional gender roles of women in the 19th century. She proudly upholds her feisty, tomboyish and outspoken self and is uninterested in marriage, unlike her other sisters. Jo is passionate about writing and literature in a society where young girls are encouraged to focus on their domestic skills and eventually pursues it as a career. Her character was cleverly developed by Alcott to equally highlight both positive and negative character traits, which suggests that she embraces the full range of her humanity; this is also what makes her so relatable for the audience.
Stubborn, witty and endearing, Elizabeth Bennett is the protagonist of Jane Austen’s 1813 classic Pride and Prejudice.She is well-read, rational and virtuous which allows her to rise above and beyond the challenges faced by women of her time. She is honest both to others and herself and she is willing to swallow her pride where she makes a mistake. Bennett is a poised and graceful individual who is neither afraid of the upper class nor overawed by the arrogant William Darcy. Unlike her sisters, she is not willing to marry for money and status and remains true to herself in her quest for true love. Her critical-mind, self-assurance and vivaciousness make her one of the most attractive and notable female characters in English literature.
About the Author:
Senjuti is a young, free-spirited and passionate woman. She loves to dream and turn them into reality. She is currently in Kolkata pursuing her musical passion by learning Indian classical music from her Guruji. She loves creative arts and all things ‘artsy’. She is also a very curious person often reading about topics ranging from Donald Trump’s latest political move, the implementation of GST in India to Kate Middleton’s latest outing. She is currently dreaming about sipping on a warm cup of Darjeeling tea on a sunny morning in the Himalayas, reading ‘Dreams from my Father’ by Barack Obama, while classical Indian music or Western classics like Elton John plays on a record player.
Book Review by Riddhi Maitra.
Bee Books’ newest offering, the English translation of Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s Goynar Baksho is aptly titled The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die. It is an encomium to the spirit of women. The tale spans across three generations and weaves together stories of survival and grit. But nowhere one finds the gloominess of day-to-day battles overshadowing the effervescence of the women. They find ways to exert their authority, at times even surpassing the men of the family, who seem merely to loaf about. The novel begins with Somlata and as fate would have it, it is up to her to restore the fast declining fortunes of her husband’s family. Her husband, Chakor Mitra Chowdhury, is caught up like the other male members of the family, in that mouldy maze of feudal pride which makes him abhor work and earn a living. Somlata, encouraged by a rare sorority between her and her mother-in-law, is quick enough to realise that the family ship needs an able hand.And so begins a lively chapter in Somlata’s life where one can see her using every trick in the book to bring her husband out of the inertia that spelled doom for many an aristocratic household. She becomes the agent of change for people around her.
For readers Somlata’s experience is made credible by the sparkling prose of Arunava Sinha. The quick plot movements in the original Bengali rendition could be seen to find adept transformation through Sinha’s able handling of the various shades of Bengali life and culture. Hence, the narrative never loses its tautness. Neither the storyis allowed to meander into nooks and crannies where the uninitiated reader may find it difficult to comprehend the subtleties of an antiquated lifestyle and its cloistered desires. The translator admirably conquers this feat, and it is nowhere more apparent than in the portrayal of Roshomoyee, the aunt of the title. Refusing to let go of her hoard of jewellery even after her death, this mordant spirit, took togetting her revenge against a world that denied her all the happiness of youth. Sinha’s evocation of Roshomoyee in all its anarchic mischievousness only puts in sharp relief the unhappiness that lies within a barren heart. This sombre realisation finds its true recipient in Boshon, Somlata’s daughter, and according to many Roshomoyee’s incarnation. Boshon is a feisty soul, and believes that the world could survive without men. It seems, as if, in her has been chiselled into shape, a clarity of purpose which the previous generations of women were found lacking. We come to realise this, albeit with a tinge of fear, when she provokes the widow Sreemoyee to set her in-laws’ house on fire and be free.
The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die is a romance, and to a comparable degree it is a travel into history as well. The theme binding the two is a search for freedom.
This BEE Books production steals the show.
When I think of Jaipur, I think of flowers. Thousands upon thousands of petals and buds; orange, blue, purple, red, spun in nets across the paths and marquees. When I think of Jaipur, instead of the pale pink facades for which the city is famous, the monkeys lazying on stall rooves, or the cool winter evenings, I think of the people – the thousands upon thousands of people who came to take part in literature: readers, novelists, singers, poets, translators, milling and chatting underneath the colourful canopy of flowers. It reminded me of Ezra Pound’s lines The apparition of these faces in the crowd/petals on a wet black bough, transported from a Paris metro station to Rajasthan’s capital.
The Diggi Palace, where the Jaipur Literature Festival takes place in January every year, is a grand stage for world literature. Its marquees housed these vast audiences, which were like nothing I had ever seen before in Wales and the UK. When I arrived home and told my family about the enthusiasm for literature in India, it actually took some convincing: “Really? Five hundred thousand visitors? They like books that much?”
Yes, fortunately for us translators and writers, they do. Thanks to Literature Across Frontiers, I was invited to take part in various readings and panel discussions. The audiences at JLF were deeply interested and involved in the written word. One panel on translation turned into an open dialogue and debate with the room, rather than a monologue limited to whoever happened to be on stage. This was refreshing and, again, so different from what I’d experienced at literary events back in the UK. That panel was my very first day at Jaipur, and it was immediately apparent to me that this was the place to be for a translator. Surrounded by proud polyglots, people who’ve spent their writing lives negotiating between languages – between their native and the dominant tongue (whether it be English or Hindi) and other tongues they’ve learned along the way – I was astounded by the richness of form, experimentation and sheer multilingualism that was present at the festival. For instance, in one of the readings of European literature, I shared a stage with Croatian, Mauritian, Icelandic, Latvian, Maltese and Portuguese authors, before meeting Indian authors publishing in Kanada, Tamil, Hindi and Malayali.
Translation is powerful. It is the means by which literature travels; the means by which writers reach their readers, and readers can hear new voices that were once closed to them. It’s this exchange, this act of opening the door for great books and sending them on their way that makes being a translator so worthwhile. Goldfish Memory, the short story collection by Monique Schwitter I translated from the original German, is the only title by the author that has come out in English so far (I hope that this will change soon). Schwitter is a brave, talented writer, deservedly recognised in German-speaking countries like Austria, Germany and Switzerland. She has been shortlisted for the prestigious German National Book Awards 2015 for her novel, Eins im Andern (‘One inside the other’), among other prizes. I first came across her work in 2011, when a Welsh publisher, Parthian, sent a hardback copy of Goldfischgedächtnis to me through the post with the note: Read it. Tell me if you like it.
And yes. I loved it. I loved her powerful use of language, her careful, magnetic prose style, verging into the realm of poetry and experimentation while, at the same time, managing to create believable and charismatic characters. Especially female ones, as in the collection’s opening piece, ‘Our Story’, which follows two friends, one of whom is dying from cancer, as they compose a memoir of their friendship together. Knowing that these tales are now available for Indian readers is, for a translator, incredibly encouraging. I hope that readers who bought copies of Goldfish Memory at the Jaipur Festival enjoy Monique Schwitter’s storytelling as much as I did when I first discovered her, many years ago.
Eluned Gramich is a Welsh-German writer and translator. She studied English Literature at Oxford and has an MA in Creative Writing from UEA. Her short fiction has been published in anthologies and magazines, including New Welsh Short Stories, Stand, Rarebit, Planet, Taliesin and O’r Pedwar Gwynt. In 2015, she translated a German short story collection by German Book Prize shortlisted author Monique Schwitter titled Goldfish Memory. Her memoir of Japan, A Woman Who Brings the Rain, won the New Welsh Writing Award 2015 and was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year 2016.
To be honest, I’d never thought of writing a novel. I never thought I had it in me to write it. I started with short stories. I wrote about three short stories before White Noise happened to me. Sounds a bit strange right? “White Noise happened to me.” Let me explain. When I was writing the short stories I had to think of my characters, develop them in my mind before developing them on paper, think of the ending as and when the story progressed, think of alternate endings etc.
But that’s not how I wrote White Noise. White Noise literally just happened to me. It came to me.
One fine day, I remember, I was on a flight when I suddenly wrote a paragraph describing ‘him’. I didn’t know who he was, I still don’t. I don’t know anyone like him but he exists in my head. But for ‘her’, he was real. His existence took over her entire life just like the two of them had taken over mine.
And immediately after I wrote the first paragraph of my novel, I also wrote the last paragraph. I knew how I would end my story. It was really strange because at that point, I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t even know there was a story to begin with.
But I’ll tell you something- the moment I wrote these two paragraphs I knew I had started something big, I knew I was on to something. What exactly, only time could tell.
And thus began the most beautiful yet scary journey of my life- The Making of White Noise.
If you’ve read my short stories you’ll know that White Noise is nothing like them. I was attempting to write something I hadn’t experienced even in the smallest way and yet I felt so close to it, so familiar with everything.
When I wrote my first chapter, I understood this was going to be a thriller, a dark romance; and for that I needed to find my dark place. Yes, all of us have a dark place- each one of us. It’s ultimately about that one thing that is capable of bringing it out from within us and White Noise brought it out in me like never before. I’ve written in the most bizarre ways. I’ve woken up suddenly in the middle of the night to write a chapter. I’ve been inspired by the strangest of things- real and imaginary. I think it’s safe to say that this book consumed me. I’ve lived with my characters; I am familiar with their pulse, their heartbeat. I know them, inside out.
And the day I wrote my last chapter, I cried. I cried because I wasn’t going to write about them anymore. It became very difficult for me to disengage. I started to feel like my characters, I started to behave like them too. Saying goodbye has been the most difficult aspect of the artistic process.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not insane. I know these characters are only in my head and now on the pages of my book; But for me, because I created them, they are my babies and all I have to do is shut my eyes to hear them all over again. I hope they never stop talking to me
This post was originally published on the storytellers paradise
So in the end, I firmly stand by the belief that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. It’s just you not wanting to break out of the safe comforts of not having to write. Or simply not making the time to write, and so if the novel that you were supposed to complete by March hasn’t been written yet – it’s probably your fault. Once you realize that, just make a writing schedule and stick to it. Or list out the things you need to write each day. This has been working out pretty well for me so far. Let’s see how soon you are able to see When Our Worlds Meet Again in the market.
difficult. Writing is not something like managing social media. I’m sorry Mr. Hemingway, but I cannot just suddenly look at the clock decide it’s time to write, so I’ll sit and bleed at the typewriter. I agree that writing is somewhere between torture and fun, and honestly, had money not been the issue I’d have gladly rented out a room to sit and write.
in your writing. Here are 5 rules that I’ve made for myself:
a plot hole. Also, people will come up to you and talk to you. Or ask you about some important work. You cannot expect them to understand that even a second of distraction, could make all that hard work go to waste. Instead write 500 word blog posts in your spare time at office. Those will be easier to proofread and edit, even if you have to leave off writing mid way to go tend to some work.
Go to sleep early, Wake up early: My mother has been telling me for years that
it is a far better idea to wake up early and work, than to burn the midnight oil. I’ve only recently realized how true that is. Even though I still sleep late sometimes, when I wake up early, I am able to log 2,000 words before getting to office.
deadlines. So, I found a way around it to work. There’s a lot of silence in office for the week and I am hoping to use the silence to write more. So much more. Wish me luck, you guys.