White Teeth

WhiteTeethThere’s a lot to like in Zadie Smith’s award winning first novel, White Teeth: the characters are well drawn and cover a broad spectrum; the episodes are well constructed and often quite fun; the themes are all important and developed well; and the novel is that excellent blend of entertainment and understanding that makes for a good read and lasting impressions.

The characters vary from Bengali and Jamaican immigrants to working class Brits with an intellectual thrown in now and then. The episodes mostly take part in an England that is assimilating a great variety of new cultures. The time-sequence and multiple narrators bounce around a bit in order to insert the backstories and viewpoints of the characters but for the most part the narrative is never lost or confused.

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Buddhadeva Bose

Buddhadeb BoseMy Kind of Girl, 2008 translation by Arunava Sinha, published 2010 by Archipelago Books. Originally Moner Moto Meye, published 1951 by Deb Sahitya Kutir publishing firm.

The narrative structure of this simple book is now considered a cliché but perhaps in 1951 it was more acceptable. Four very different travelers are stranded in the waiting room at Tundla station waiting for the train which is held up by a derailment near Aligarh. In order to pass the hours in the freezing station, the four men decide to exchange stories. The subject is love.

Despite the narrative simplicity, each of these stories is almost perfect. I certainly admire the author’s writing but we also have to give the translator credit. Being a smelly old westerner, I maintain an extra level of appreciation since the stories are dealing with an unfamiliar country and its social customs. I may know a lot about India and especially the history of India, but that’s very different from getting down to the thoughts and actions of two or three people, their relationships, their emotions.

This was a very different book for me, one that might be considered well-outside my normal transgressive approach to literature, but I really enjoyed it and recommend it to all readers.