This Month's Stop Bangladesh!

I just finished Revenge by Taslima Nasrin for my Around The World in 12 Books Challenge.

Set in modern Bangladesh (Hello, second stop of my challenge!) this short novel follows the life Jhumur, a recent college graduate, who marries her sweetheart Haroon. Unfortunately for Jhumur, shortly after the ceremony the man she wed has disappeared and is replaced by a strict traditionalist who bears no resemblance to the man who happily spent hours listening to her sing. Haroon now wants her to quiet her laugh, confine herself to the family home unless accompanied by a male escort, despite the fact that she possesses a degree in physics, and refrain from saying his name unless the two are alone. Worse, six weeks into their life together she becomes pregnant and since Haroon doubts his wife’s pre marital chastity, and thus his link to the child, he forces her to abort the baby. Haroon’s actions, however, have repercussions.

This book is one of the reasons why I love this challenge! I would have never in a million years come across Nasrin had I not been searching for a book to fit this month’s requirement. Nasrin as an author, and as a person, deserves some accolades. An ex-doctor turned author, Nasrin was exiled from Bangladesh eighteen years ago because of her feministic view point and her criticisms of Islam. Despite multiple fatwas she continues to write in hopes of educating people about the existing inequalities.

The neat thing about this book is that it’s written as a type of fable, not so much a fable in that animals are playing the characters, but more so in that there is a moral to the story. The not so neat thing about the book is that I could not relate to or sympathize with the main character at all. I think part of the reason I couldn't is because while I can understand a woman’s reaction to oppression when that is the norm of their country or if they’ll be met with violence if they resist, I can't understand Jhumur, a woman who had options. I realize that part of Bangladeshi culture requires women to submit to their husbands and attempts to shelter women, however, other parts of the culture allow a woman to excel and be somewhat independent, as is clearly evidenced by Jhumur’s pre marital life. So I had trouble reconciling that a woman who has a choice between submission and her independence would choose the former, and even further still love her husband despite it. As an American woman with an amazingly supportive husband I just failed to wrap my mind around it. 

And onto the next . . . I am currently reading my classic novel of the month, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.


Shannon (Giraffe Days)

It reminds me a bit of those Iranian and Saudi memoirs - I went through a phase years ago of reading quite a few of them - about women living in that kind of situation, but with fewer options, if any, and some of them were more sharing their life rather than criticising it or railing against it (one was about a princess in, I think Saudi Arabia, who came across as a bit of a spoilt "housewife of Beverly Hills" type!). I remember studying Bangladesh for year 11 geography but we mostly looked at it because it was so poor - I tend to forget that it would have an upper class, a middle class, universities etc. (The couple here sound nicely middle class!)

I can totally understand why you had trouble sympathising with the narrator - if the only reason she doesn't want to leave the relationship is that she loves him (or the memory of pre-wedding Haroom?), it would really have to work at convincing us of that wouldn't it. Sounds like a disappointing flaw in an otherwise interesting read. Did you learn much about the country through this book?


Shannon, I too went through a phase of middle east memoirs and this book was definitely reminiscent of those stories.

And while love is one of the reasons she stays with him, the moral of the story explains in more depth why she stays.

Unfortunately, because the narrator is confined to the home throughout most of the book I didn't learn much about Bangladesh. Still an interesting read and I'm looking forward to next month!

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