Harbart: Too Many Twists Spoil The Plot

The début novel of Nabarun Bhattacharya, published in 1993, it is considered a “landmark in Bengali literature”, and is listed in the genre of dark humour. Personally, I was unaware of the author, because of the fact that he writes only in his mother tongue. So, I was a both excited and sceptical at the prospect of reading an English translation of his work. The reason for my scepticism was previous experiences with translated works, and the knowledge, that many times, it fails to capture the real emotions that the original wanted to portray. But since I can not read Bangla, so I shall consider the translation by Arunava Sinha as authentic.

The main protagonist of the novel is Harbart Sarkar. The story revolves around him and chases his life story from his early childhood traumas, neglected upbringing to his rise and a sudden fall. Harbart Sarkar is an eccentric man who is disillusioned and chased by his own demons. Disliked by some of his family for being a free-loader, his fortune changes with a “dream” and he becomes a medium for people to talk with their deceased relatives. His unhealthy fascination with death and the secrets of the afterlife, fuel his delusions and the image he creates for himself, till he is exposed as a fraud. Unable to face the truth, he goes into depression and takes his own life.

The story is written in a very unconventional way. It is like the mind of Harbart; jerky, delusional and eccentric. To be frank, I was a bit confused while reading the first chapter of the novel, as the sudden changes baffled me and I had a hard time following the narration. There is lack of demarcation between direct and indirect speech, and it keeps shifting between reality and the delusions of Harbart. All this makes reading it a task.

The plot is okay. Not anything revolutionary mind you, but readable. It isn’t exactly a story of a God-man conning people, since the disillusioned Harbart, himself believes it all to be true. But, too many twists spoil the continuation. In a span of less than 150 pages we see not one, not two but almost ten twists. The story starts off with a lot of promise, but somehow looses focus as it moves from one twist to the other.

The book does have it’s moments in between. There are parts in it, that make you think about our own demons and insecurities. Harbart Sarkar might be in everyone of us, because many times we refuse to see the truth and find it easier to believe in a lie. And though a complex narration, it still manages to hold your attention.

And finally I would say that it is a good novel if you want something to read on a short train journey. But you might end up feeling that you have read the script of a movie.



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3 Responses to “Harbart: Too Many Twists Spoil The Plot”
  1. Ruchira says:

    ah well,i am anyways always vary of reading translations ….. think ill give this book a miss!

  2. Purbaray says:

    But the plot is intriguing. Perhaps not something you”ll reach out for on a cold wintry night. Too dark but worth giving a try.

    A well written review.

  3. Pzes says:

    You could have hidden the fact that he died!

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