I finished reading The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau in record time. That is not unusual for a crime thriller but Graeme Macrae Burnet is doing something very different from other crime novels. In most mystery packed thrillers you cannot wait to know who the killer or the criminal is. But in Adele, the actual crime takes a back seat. A mysterious case of disappearance has occurred but Burnet frustratingly keeps telling us about Manfred Baumann’s family background.
One thing that struck me was that the events happened so abruptly. They do not even seem like a twist in the tale but more like real life where things you do not expect, happen anyway. There is no pretension, no deliberate conjuring of intrigue to keep readers at the edge of their seats. The writing may even seem dull at times. What pushed me on is more like an obtuse curiosity to know how it ends for Baumann rather than for Adele. Some of the shocking incidents seemed more accidental than planned from the protagonist’s as well as the author’s perspective. Events proceed almost like an absurdist drama where many things happen but nothing leads anywhere (like the complications that Manfred invents in his head). Alternatively like Godot, nothing really happens (like the final culmination). Notably, Raymond Brunet’s first work is an absurdist drama. Manfred is a protagonist of an absurd drama demonstrating the futility of existence.
I was told that the book is a psychological thriller. Most psycho thrillers I’ve read involves a psychotic criminal or a psychologically driven motive. But Adele Bedeau is thought-provoking because the psychological aspect is so personal. The book is ultimately the outcome of extreme paranoia of an anti-social person of the likes of Meursault. Burnet has captured the idiosyncrasy and struggle of a man who had resigned himself to a life of loneliness. He craves the company of a warm and loving person, he dreams of a fairy-tale love story but his self-consciousness and low self-esteem prevent him from forming any kind of relationship. He can only feel superior in the presence of his meek assistant at his workplace. The existentialism and social awkwardness are very relatable even though the protagonists are not particularly endearing and do not capture the reader’s pity.
There is a meta-narrative running parallel to the plotline where the past and the present merge. Two characters have their points of view although one of them has almost nothing to contribute to the main focus of the novel. The unreliable narration brings out the complexity of human mind and the impossibility of truly knowing oneself. The style of representation makes one ponder whether in a literary work the resolution is more important or the leading up to it is. The book is not fast-paced but forces you to dwell on the characters and decipher their minds.
This focus on character rather than plot demarcates the book from conventional crime fiction. The figure of the out-of-place crime investigator is too common in the literature of espionage. It is Manfred who held the more fascination for me. To me, he is a tragic hero and Adele comes for him as the personification of Karma to force him to serve penance for his unpunished sins much like the Furies pursuing Orestes.
The book stayed with me long after I turned the last page. It made me pause, it made me think, and it made me write a 600-words review. I greatly look forward to reading His Bloody Project and The Accident on the A35.
About the author:
Srabani Bhattacharya is pursuing her Master’s Degree in English from Jadavpur University. She loves cats and can be found petting them wherever she finds one, but mostly in the narrow lanes of North Kolkata. She is interested in mythology, mysticism, Pink Floyd and the subtle art of everyday life.
Since we started, every year has just been a little more exciting than the previous and 2017 did not disappoint.
It has been a fulfilling in more than one ways.
At BEE we aim to lay out a platter of different kinds of books, participate in exchanges and collaborations and promote literature. Traveling and meeting new people, forms a core of my way at looking at publishing.
Like every year it started with the KLF 2017 where BEE was a content support and we connected to a lot of new authors, celebrities and young talents. At the Book Fair we experimented with an open platform stall, which I felt was more welcoming than four sides closed spaces. Bright yellow colored walls and merchandises.
We are hoping this year too we will expand our range of merchandise and bring forward a couple of more products.
2017 has been a milestone year for us as our BEE turned three. We celebrated with BEE Turns Three – an anthology of 20 short stories; it is exclusively available on Kindle. The book ranked at number one for a few days after its release.
When I sat down to recount this year that has gone by for the BEE Blog, I decided to write in the form of a timeline—the only form of narration that suits me. So let me start with January 2017
The year started with Jaipur Book Mark where BEE presented its upcoming title list for translation from the Indian languages in the panel – Translating India. I met Paul Beatty at the Harper Collins dinner (but secretly wishing to meet Neil Gaiman not knowing what the future held).
Soon after Jaipur, BEE made its mark at the Kolkata International Book Fair with an open platform stall and then at the International Kolkata Literature Festival 2017 on 2–4 February.
10 countries. 65 speakers. 15 panel discussions. 3 cultural performances.
The Valley The City and the Village project was launched at the Literature Festival which also marked the start of UK India Year of Culture 2017, with the publication of Natalie Ann Holborow’s book, And Suddenly you Find Yourself.
We had three lovely authors, Natalie Ann Holborrow Sion Tomos Owen and Sophie McKeand along with Richard Devis, publisher at Parthian Books, Wales, and Gary Raymond, founder of Wales Arts Review.
We also welcomed another delegation from Scotland, lead by Jenny Brown and authors Doug Johnson and Lin Anderson who were part of the Bloody Scotland Session and spoke of Crime Writing in Scotland and that lead us to our second project with British Council UK, also part of the UK Year of Culture 2017. The idea of Bridges Beyond Boundaries originated from the Bloody Scotland Session at our Literature festival with Jenny Brown, Doug Jonstone, Lin Anderson representing Crime Writing in Scotland and Monabi Mitra and Krishnendu Mukhopadhyay speaking about Crime Writing in Bengal.
Awesome Four was another series that we launched in collaboration with PC Chandra. A four book series for children with Ceph the octopius, Angelina the angel fish, Buff the fat butterfly and Gracy the geeky chicken. All the characters, with their flaws, were heroes in their own way. The reason behind the book was to make every child feel special. PC Chandra also launched their Little Jewels range of jewelry for kids. The launched was graced by well-known Bengali actress Koel Mullick.
The success streak of January continued as we geared for the book launch of Saint Teresa of Calcutta in Kolkata by Shri Satyam Roychowdhury. It was launched by our honorable ex-president Shri Pranab Mukherjee.
The book was earlier launched in Rome at the cannonisation of Saint Teresa
March was probably the most boring year at BEE and for me as well since we are only consolidating accounts. But the month was brightened up when Shri Samares Mazumdar dedicated the book Calcutta e Nabakumar in my name.
Also, BEE had a new yellow bookshelf and cyan sitting places, which we got customized and specially designed with our house colour. Our new office space was also done up with bright yellow walls.
With the new financial year ahead, April went by running around VISA and bookings for our month-long trip to UK.
It was all about the travel to the beautiful country of Wales. We travelled to seven cities along with our welsh counterparts. The most memorable was the Hay festival where the authors were part of the hay mela session. I also met THE NEIL GAIMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I spent the first-half of June holidaying in France and Netherlands. Although it was meant to be a leisure trip, but France being the focal theme country of the Kolkata Books Fair 2018, I met a few outstanding authors and achievers during my visit there. I am lucky that we have managed to invite most of them and they have kindly accepted our invitation.
Once I was back to Kolkata, BEE was all set to release two of its most successful titles in the coming months.
White Noise by Shruti Upadhaya was launched on 1st July, which went on to become a big hit for us this year. The book was launched at Hyatt Regency Kolkata by reputed actor and theater giant, Mr Rajat Kapoor.
White Noise was also launched in Delhi by Devapriya Roy at the Full Circle Book Store at Greater Kailash.
The book got widely covered by various newspaper, magazines and media blogs and garnered mostly five star reviews.
August saw the launch of one of our most awaited title of 2017 – The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die. Originally written in Bengali by Shri Shirsendu Mukhopadhyay (Goynar Baksho) and translated by the prolific Mr Arunava Sinha, the book got covered widely by media blogs and received many reviews.
On 26th August we went live on Juggernaut with this book and now we have our all our titles on Juggernaut.
September marked the start of my second project with British Council under UK India Year of Culture 2017 – Bridges Beyond Boundaries with Bloody Scotland, supported by Creative Scotland and British Council.
BEE went to the Crime Writers Festival at Sterling in Scottish Highlands. The inauguration of the festival was at the Sterling Castle with a torch lit walk. One of the best experiences was as we walked down from the Castle to the venue for the discussion.
Our next destination was the beautiful Edinburgh. Although the weather was on the cooler side, the people’s warmth compensated for the weather.
At the Crime Writers Festival, apart from the amazing sessions, BEE met the three amazing authors, Val McDermid, Graeme Macrae Burnet and Abir Mukherjee who all will be travelling to Kolkata for the Kolkata Literature Festival 2018 for a week in February which includes travel across Kolkata and Shantiniketan and interacting with all the delegates and guests.
BEE’s next stop was London and we had a wonderful time discussing prospects and programs to promote Indian literature on international platform, through various programs and collaborations.
September also marked the 50th year for Kishore Bharati as a magazine and the celebration at Gorky Sadan had all the illustrious authors and poets, Shri Shirsendu Mukhopadhyay, Shri Shankha Ghosh who unveiled the cover for the 50th Sharadiya Kishore Bharati, Shri Samares Mazumder, Shri Sanjib Chattopadhyay, Shri Samit Roy and Shri Prafulla Roy. We also had with us reputed singer Swagatalakhsmi.
The book BEE Turns 3, celebrating three years of BEE Books, went live on kindle and in no time came on #1 on the list of new releases in the fiction category.
We also released the book, The Dedicated by Lizelle Raymond with a foreword by Shri Sanjib Chattopadhyay on her 150th Birth Anniversary.
We were also associated with Bangla Sahitya Utsav conducted by Patra Company which took place at the Apeejay Lawns this year in association with Oxford Bookstore and completed 3years in a row.
November was dedicated to our beloved Shankar and his adventure in the Amazon – an enthralling story of two adventurers – Shankar & Anna who travel thousands of miles to reach the mythical city of Gold – El Dorado. With natural difficulties, wild animals, savage tribes, and vicious gold digger, it’s story of discovery & knowledge, unrelenting courage, survival, loss & pain. But above all, it is a tale of universal human bond and connection & the wisdom an individual gains from it.
As the year ended, we at BEE geared up to release our next set of international thrillers and crime fiction. On 31st December, we released the Bloody Scotland anthology and simultaneously laying the groundwork to release The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau, a psychological thriller by Graeme Macrae Burnet, and also the preparation for the upcoming Kolkata Bookfair are on full swing.
The cycle continues; the ball keeps rolling and we set to face another year full of surprises – new projects, new books and lots of work!
Happy New Year 2018!
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