- Hardcover: 456 pages
- Publisher: Harper Collins India (27 April 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9351775887
- ISBN-13: 978-9351775881
- Package Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.4 x 3.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #67,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Zindaginama Hardcover – 27 Apr 2016
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About the Author
Krishna Sobti was born in 1925.She won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1980 for Zindaginama and in 1996, she was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship. She is best known for her 1966 novel Mitro Marjani, an unapologetic portrayal of a married woman's sexuality. In 2005, the translation of her novel Dil-o-Danish won the Hutch-Crossword Award.
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However, readers be advised: In order to fully appreciate Zindaginama, a working knowledge of common Hindi words and phrases is a must. This edition comes with an expansive glossary, but it's still not enough. Some words that are left in the Hindi and not found in the glossary, can be gleaned by context, and the translator has deftly inserted in-line translations into the speaker's words, which helps. But it's still not enough. Readers inexperienced with transliterated Hindi will find themselves flipping back to the glossary and at times, scratching their heads to grasp the meaning by context. Frankly, trying to get the meaning by context can sometimes be a futile effort.
Between the glossary and the in-line translations, there is enough for the reader to make her way through the book, but this is mostly due to the fact that the narrative is so well-crafted and fascinating that you can "glide over" the transliterations you can't figure out and still appreciate both the story and the craftsmanship of the author.
Zindaginama was intended to be the first of three volumes. Sobti had intended to follow the characters and their village from pre-Independence to Partition (the planned second volume), and the Post-Partition period (volume 3). Unfortunately, the second and third volumes were never written, and no published outline of them appears to be available and may not even exist. Too bad, too. The characters we fall in love with in this book -- again, mostly the women -- are poised on the brink of one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century, and they have no way of knowing how close their way of life is to almost total extinction as a result of the catastrophic Partition period (1947 to 1952). The characters become so dear to the reader that the thought of them dying or suffering loss becomes a lingering pathos that stays with you long after you have finished the book. The more you know about the history of this period, the worse you will feel. That is one of the feelings that tell you in no uncertain terms that you, the reader, have a heart, and that your heart has been opened and touch by the book. So let the distress be okay.
It might be helpful to make your way through some of Sobti's novellas, which are available in English translation, although mostly through Amazon Marketplace vendors. They are inexpensive and well worth the effort. In particular, I recommend some of my favorites: "The Heart Has Its Reasons (Dil o Danesh)", a book sure to turn you into a lover of Sobti's work, especially if you enjoy feminist literature. Sobti's feminism, which flowered in her literature, most notably in the 1970's, is way ahead of its time, just like many of her characters. "The Music of Solitude" deals with the tender subject of intimacy amongst the elderly; ToHellWithYou Mitro (Mitro Marjani) tells the tale of a rebellious feminist character glued through marriage to a dysfunctional, traditional household. A lesser-known novella, "Sunflowers of the Dark" presents the life of a rape victim who is branded as a sexually loose woman --- an injustice that is still rife in Indian society today and is even abetted by the police!
For feminist readers in particular, I recommend "Hey, Girl (Ai Ladhki)". Sobti uses the classical structure of "deathbed dialogue" to tell the heartbreaking story of how a dying mother struggles to pass on a spiritual legacy to her daughters -- what it means to be a Hindu woman and the strange pride she derived from her traditional, obedient lifestyle. Yet the mother is also forthcoming for the first time in her daughter's life about the pain and sacrifice involved in hewing to such a lifestyle and what it costs a woman to do so. For me, it was also a lesson in the uniqueness of a woman's death, especially when she leaves behind daughters. Even the act of surrendering to the inevitable has its gender differences, something we male western readers may not have realized before. This particular title comes with my highest recommendation.
Zindaginama is worth the effort, and if you are a fan of modern Indian fiction, as I am, it is a must-read. Despite the language difficulty, Zindaginama remains accessible and clear in the hands of its talented translators. The price is finally right too. Before this edition, the title was almost totally gone from third party booksellers, and those that had one knew what they had: Prices ranged from $65 for a beat-up paperback copy to quite literally $1,000+ for pristine copies or hardcovers. If you are a Sobti fan, now is the time to buy. - Christopher Dittmann