By Gajendra Kumar Mitra
Kolkatar Kachhei (Quite Close to Kolkata) is an in-depth exploration of the life of three generations of a middle-class family in a village near Kolkata, primarily through the eyes of the women in it. Mitra portrays how this family must grapple with its continuous precarious position between poverty and stability while trying to create and sustain pretensions of respectability. It shows how the women in the house must respond to these ideas of respectability, which for them entail staying at home, and for men translate to spreading their wings and finding external economic and social freedoms. However, across the generations of women, it underlines how stoic acceptance transforms into an almost existential battle for liberty, reflecting the larger social struggles of the time: of all people against colonialism, and of women against patriarchy. It received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1959.
About the Author
Gajendra Kumar Mitra’s (1908-1994) was a versatile author, translator, and publisher of Bengali literature. Focusing primarily on writing short stories, poetry and drama for the first half of his career, his first book only came out after 200 of his short stories had been published in Bengali journals. Besides his literary work, he co-founded Mitra & Ghosh Publishers in 1934, which continues to be a famous press today. According to literary critic J.N. Chakrabartti, Mitra’s writing style is defined by its raw “almost perfect illusion of reality… [seen] in the delineation of the subtler shades of human emotion”.