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This novel depicts an untouchable "criminal tribe" transformed by the effects of World War II and India's independence movement. The village's struggles anticipate the dilemmas of rural development, ecological and economic exploitation, and dalit militancy that would occupy the center of India's post-Independence politics. Lyrically rendered by one of India's great novelists, this story of one people's plight dramatizes the anxieties of a nation.
A terrifying sound disturbs the peace of Hansuli Turn, a forest village in Bengal. The community splits as to its meaning. Does it herald the apocalyptic departure of the old gods or is there a more rational explanation? The Kahars, inhabitants of Hansuli Turn, belong to an untouchable "criminal tribe" surviving at the fringe of the twin maelstroms of World War II and India's independence movement. Their headman, Bonwari, upholds the ethics of an older time, but the shelter of this fragile philosophy proves no match for the overpowering machinery of war and social upheaval. As Bonwari and the village elders come to believe the gods have abandoned them, younger villagers led by the rebel Karali seek other meanings and signs of a different way of life.

Negotiating the colonial depredations of the 1939–1945 war, the oppressions of an indigenous caste system, and agrarian exploitation, the Kahars both fear and desire the consequences of a changing society that seems to promise them greater equality at the cost of losing their story. Rendered in striking experimental prose by one of India's great novelists, The Tale of the Hansuli Turn revises our understanding of modern South Asia with a dual invitation: to imagine from below the paradoxes of decolonization and to imagine the source of the Indian novel as the words of an old subaltern woman.

Bandyopadhyay, Tarashankar

The Tale of Hansuli Turn

Transl. by Baer, Ben Conisbee

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Publication Date:
June 2011
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Citation Information

Introduction (2011). The Tale of Hansuli Turn (pp. vii–xxviii). https://doi.org/10.7312/band14904-intro

Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.7312/band14904

Online ISBN: 9780231520225

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