River Madhumati and The Broken Fiddle by Sharif Atiquzzaman is a collection of shot stories examining the challenges and opportunities for those living in Bangladesh. One or two main characters are focused in each story, each from different social, economic, political or religious backgrounds. Each story in this collection introduces new characters and situations, but the common theme of social inequality and an effective use of dark humour mean each of these works to help paint an overall picture of life in Bangladesh with lots of detail. The partition of India in 1947 with the end of the British colonial rule brought about a catastrophe in the lives of the Bengalis. At least three stories, River Madhumati and The Broken Fiddle, The Partitioned and Shishubala, the Midwife, contain the saga of rootlessness. The Move and Faces on a Sketchbook portray the slum dwellers living into silent misery. The subservience of women is adequately unveiled in The Feminist and Housemaid. How the high ambitious political leaders use the younger generation as their pawns in the dirty game of political chess is depicted in minute detail in Rider of a Dream Horse. The Neighbour is a touchy story of communal harmony practised honestly by some generous people discarding religious prejudice. All the eleven stories reflect dark humour and gritty descriptions that will make the writings accessible to a wide range of readers, and will help them to imagine some of the harshness of life in poverty in Bangladesh. These stories are relatable and enjoyable to those who have experienced similar difficulties. Each story and its characters are unique, yet the author maintains consistent themes and tones across them to present a bigger picture to the readers. Sharif Atiquzzaman’s descriptions are powerful throughout, for example with analogies such as: His crawler brother clings to his body as if a bat to the house roof (Faces on a Sketchbook); Aalo weeps remorsefully holding her sister’s hand and Mala weeps piteously holding him to her bosom. She watches the wax as it drips down the side of the candle (Rider of a Dream Horse); She can’t remember when the waves of River Madhumati entered her heart. She only understands when it falls, as drops of tears on her pillow (River Madhumati and The Broken Fiddle). These help the readers to imagine scenes that might be unfamiliar to them, which in turn helps them to emphasis with the struggles some of the main characters are going through. Sharif Atiquzzaman is a prolific writer and he has been writing for three decades in his mother tongue, Bangla. This is his first but worthy effort to approach the global readers. It will help Bangladeshi literature make an access to the world literature as well.
Roxana Rahman, /5