Dozakhnama: Conversations In Hell begins in Lucknow, where the narrator chances upon a man in possession of a manuscript that he claims was penned by Manto, the famous Urdu writer. This manuscript is a novel, written by Manto, on the legendary Mirza Ghalib. The narrator is unable to read it as the manuscript is in Urdu. He then shifts to Calcutta to learn the language, with the intention of publishing it later.
This marks the beginning of the surreal journey, which is presented as a conversation between Ghalib and Manto from their graves. What follows is exquisite storytelling, a culture of the bygone era between two literary stalwarts which spans over two centuries.
Ghalib talks about his chaotic life, how he grew up without a father figure, his obsession with owning a house of his own, and his frustration at the constant criticism of his work. Dozakhnama: Conversations In Hell alternates between figments of Ghalib’s conversation, followed by those of Manto’s, with the different timelines highlighted. The Manto part of the conversation mainly features the revolt of 1857, which he experienced firsthand. Filled with ghazals and anecdotes, the reader also experiences the dark side of his character, his addiction to alcohol, and obsession with prostitutes.
Rabisankar Bal has seamlessly woven countless anecdotes, interesting word of mouth information, and other small bits and pieces into a timeless monologue, shared as a dream between two visionaries. Both Ghalib and Manto had some eerily similar traits, like their disrespect towards the idea of marriage, and an inclination towards brothels that bordered near obsession.
Dozakhnama: Conversations In Hell is a powerful read, with amazing insight into cultural, economic, and socio-political prevalences during the lifespans of the two acclaimed writers. Rabisankar Bal has managed to forge an unique tale that transcends characters and time, and paints a picture of human society and what it stands for.
Dozakhnama: Conversations In Hell has garnered generally positive reviews from critics. This is originally a Bengali novel, translated into English by Arunava Sinha.
About The Authors
Rabisankar Bal is a Bengali novelist and short-story writer, credited with over fifteen novels.
His other novels include The Biography Of Midnight .
He was born in the year 1962 and lives in Kolkata. He pursues journalism, apart from being a writer. He zealously follows literature, painting, and also world cinema. His next novel lined up for release revolves around the Sufi poet Rumi, imagined from the perspective of Ibn Batuta. He writes predominantly in Bengali. His novels have won a few awards namely, Sutapa Roychowdhury Memorial Prize, and Bankimchandra Smriti Puraskar.
Arunava Sinha translates both contemporary and classic Bengali fiction and nonfiction works into English. He, till date, is accredited with eighteen publications.
His highly acclaimed works include Chowringhee and Seventeen.
He was born and brought up in Kolkata. but currently operates from Delhi.