Jagadish Gupta was a pioneer of the great modernist movement that began in the last quarter of Rabindranath Tagore's life, and ushered in what was to become a glorious post-Tagore phase of Bengali literature. He wrote mainly novels and short stories, and drew both high praise and sharp criticism from Tagore. His works, often far ahead of their time, are marked for their unsentimental, analytical approach and fearless exploration of taboo themes. Having faced vitriol, poverty and neglect in his lifetime, he is now recognised as a landmark figure in Bengal's literary legacy.
A Primal Issue is the first collection of his stories to appear in English. All the seven stories, with women as central protagonists, probe the deep undercurrents of life at individual, familial and social levels. Six of them focus unsparingly on the brutal realities of the day—child marriage, taboo on widow remarriage, polygamy, society's constant violation of women's humanity—and yet remain affirmative in their final impact. The seventh story is a delightful take on a common enough male fantasy. Together, these stories, written between the 1920s and 1930s, voice a defiance of conservatism that still resonates with undiminished power.
Translated by Subrata Basu, the collection comes as a long overdue reminder of one of the great authors of Bengal.
Jagadish Gupta was a Bengali writer and pioneer of the modernist movement in the 1920s. He published eight novels, eight short story collections, and some poetry, and his writing took Bengal’s literary world by storm. He earned both praise and criticism from Rabindranath Tagore, which brought him much critical attention. Born in 1886, he worked a number of smaller jobs before finally quitting to concentrate primarily on his literary career, until his death in 1957. Some of his works include Binodini (1927), Laghu-Guru (1931) and Akshara (1932).
Subrata Basu lives in Kolkata, writes in English and Bengali, and translates both ways between these languages. His translations have been published by the Sahitya Akademi, National Book Trust and a leading publisher of Kolkata. He was awarded First Prize in 2007 in the Oral Literature division of an all-India literary translation competition held by the Sahitya Akademi. He takes an interest, midway between a layman’s and an academic’s, in science, literature and the history of Soviet Communism.