Reading this book reminded me why I love reading, it reminded me that literature has the power to connect with you deeply. Panty (which I have reviewed earlier here) is the first book I read by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay and completely loved. So when I heard that Tilted Axis were publishing another one of her works in English I couldn’t wait! I’m always a bit worried when there is a book I really want coming out, you never know if a book is a one hit wonder (this is also the reason why Harper Lee’s Go set a Watchman is still on my bookshelf unread). I shouldn’t have worried though, once again Bandyopadhyay knocked me off my feet with this complex take about a woman struggling with her many Selfs.
I’m so excited to write about this I don’t know where to start…
I went into London Book Reviews on my lunchbreak to get a copy of Island of Lost girls which has been recommended to me by many people but I just haven’t got around to getting it for some reason. Instead I bought Panty, on a whim, and I’m so glad I did!
Panty is originally written in Bengali by Sangeeta Bandhyopadhyay (SB) and has been translated into English by Arunava Sinha. SB is described as “the woman who reintroduced hardcore sexuality into Bengali literature” so I was both intrigued and bit wary of a mills and boonesque horror awaiting me. Instead, I was met with a no-nonsense portrayal of contemporary Indian society, which explores female sexuality as only one of its themes. Among other things Panty deals with issues of nationhood, religion and questions what it means to be a feminist through a complicated relationship between the protagonist and her lover/boyfriend/partner? (we never find out).
A big frustration of mine is that I can read my mother tongue, Kannada. I spent my early years learning Hindi and English and only speaking Kannada at home and with family. This is hugely annoying for me, especially because I know that Kannada literature has so many rich stories to offer. It also really annoys me that I can’t read street signs, shop signs, truck signs etc. etc. (which is actually a weird pass-time of mine) when I’m back in India. The overall effect of being so well versed with the narrative of a language but being blind to its writing and physical language is a disorienting one.