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Item Code: HAQ028
Author: Jibanananda Das
Publisher: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9780143451686
Pages: 240
Other Details 8x5 inch
Weight 180 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

Malloban is set in North Calcutta in the winter of 1929. The eponymous protagonist, a lower-middle-class office worker, lives in College Street-a locality known for its bookstores, publishing houses, and universities-with his wife Utpala and their daughter Monu. The novel unfolds through a series of everyday scenes of dysfunction and discontent: bickering about bathrooms and budgeting, family trips to the zoo and the movies, a visit from Utpala's brother's family which displaces Malloban to a boarding house, and the appearance of a frequent late-night visitor to Utpala's upstairs bedroom. Meanwhile, the daughter Monu bears the brunt of her parents' 'unlove'.

Arguably the most beloved poet in modern Bangla after Tagore, Jibanananda wrote a significant number of novels and short stories discovered and published after his death. Malloban is his best-known novel.

About the Author

JIBANANANDA DAS was born in Barisal, East Bengal (British India), in 1899 in a Brahmo family. He spent most of his adult life traveling from Barisal to Calcutta and back again-frequently unemployed and destitute, working intermittently as an English professor at various colleges and briefly as a life insurance agent, and writing poetry, an activity that did not always go over well with his employers. Jibanananda's poetry was enthusiastically taken up by the adhunik (modernist) poets of the post-Tagore generation associated with little magazines such as Kallol, Pragati, Kavita and others, although Jibanananda remained somewhat tangential to the group. After the Partition of 1947, Jibanananda moved to Calcutta and died there in a tram accident in 1954. As often happens, his poetry found a much greater following in both Bengals after his death, and he remains one of the most celebrated poets in the Bangla language.

REBECCA WHITTINGTON is a scholar and translator of modern South Asian literatures (Bangla, Tamil, and Hindi-Urdu). She translated poetry and fiction for the anthology Time Will Write a Song For You: Contemporary Tamil Writing from Sri Lanka (Penguin India, 2014). She lives in San Francisco with her family, spends time in Kolkata often, and shares Jibanananda's liking for languages, birds, and cats.


For many readers in India, Bangladesh, and beyond, Jibanananda Das is a name synonymous with "poet." Jibanananda's impressive body of prose work, which includes short stories and novels, was unearthed from a chest years after his death-perhaps not surprising for the poet of Dhusar Pandulipi (Gray Manuscripts). These experimental works were unquestionably ahead of their time, and, arguably, there is still nothing quite like them in the world of Bangla fiction. This makes the prose-writer Jibanananda something of a writer's writer, in contrast to the much-beloved poet-Jibanananda; however, since the publication of a substantial number of the prose works, along with previously unpublished poems, in the twelve-volume Jibanananda Samagra (Complete Jibanananda, ed. Debesh Ray) in the 1980s-1990s, Jibanananda's fiction has gained a cult following. To my knowledge, only a fraction of Jibanananda's prose has been published in English translation.

Malloban is the third of four novels Jibanananda wrote in Calcutta in 1948, just after the Partition. Malloban takes us back to the winter of 1929 in Calcutta, in the wake of the Swadeshi movement that arose after the first Partition of Bengal in 1905 and at the beginning of the global economic depression. The three subsequent novels take place closer to the time of writing: Basmatir Upakhyan in East Bengal on the eve of Partition, Jalpaihati in East Bengal and Calcutta around the Partition, and Sutirtha in post-Partition Calcutta This quartet, though clearly shaped by the upheavals of the 1940s, decenters the traumatic events of the period to dwell on the slower processes of wear and tear in the fabric of everyday life, the dysfunctionality of language, and the limits of empathy.

Lyrical, grotesque, and deadpan by turns, Malloban portrays with devastating perception the damaging effects of rigid norms of gender and sexuality along with the loss of human connection with fellow humans, and with nature, that comes out of the combined forces of colonialism, capitalism, and urbanization. The main characters are a small family living in North Calcutta's College Street, an area also known as boipara (book neighborhood) for its publishing houses and bookstalls. For the protagonist Malloban, an office clerk employed by a foreign company, the neighborhood's main attraction is the Goldighi (literally "Round Pond," a reservoir in what is now known as Vidyasagar Square). Malloban, his wife Utpala, and their eight-year-old daughter Monu go about their daily life neatly separated from their neighbors by a "splendid partition" of green tarpaulins.

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