BUNKIM CHANDRA CHATTERJEE.
Translated from Bengali
DEBENDRA CHANDRA MULLICK, b.l.,
Pleader, High Court, Calcutta.
THACKER, SPINK & CO.
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The name of Bunkim Chandra Chatterjee as a Bengali novelist has been sufficiently familiarised to the literary public by translations of some of his best novels by Mrs. Knight and Mr. H. A. D. Phillips. The extent of his fame even in Europe can be well imagined from the fact that one of his novels has been translated in German. He is unquestionably the best Bengali novelist that Bengal has yet produced.
Bunkim is pre-eminently the best product of English education in India, and no one occupies a higher position in the literary world of India to-day than he. Whatever might have been the greatness and glory of India in remote antiquity, Bunkim found it a different India altogether. The divine Sanscrit which had once been the living and fertilising influence was no longer living but dead. The mother dead, her children led a forlorn and moribund existence. The vernaculars of India which have their origin in Sanscrit were no longer the vehicles of noble and exalted thoughts, but a poor, weak, worthless clothing for crude and work-a-day ideas. The advent of the English flooded the land with Western thoughts and ideas. They came as manna to famished India and as nectar to her parched lips. A galvanic current ran through the length and breadth of the country; India shook off her torpor and like the fabled phoenix rose as it were from her ashes. The glow of health had long forsaken her cheeks, the pallor of death had overspread her countenance, and she had been gasping for breath. Now the colour came back to-her cheeks, she heaved with life and vigour in a renewed adolescence and she brought forth her noble sons. And Bunkim was one of the noblest'of them. Such were the environments in which Bunkim was ushered into existence.
Born in 1838, Bunkim soon found his way into an English School From School to College was an easy slide. He graduated at the Hughli College, passed his law at the Presidency College at Calcutta, and was one of the first graduates of the Calcutta University. He was made a Deputy Magistrate, he obtained the title of Roy Bahadur and the distinction of the Order of a Companion of the Indian Empire was conferred on him.
By the time Bunkim ﬁnished his College career English education had done its work, and Bunkim throbbed and palpitated with an intellectual ferment. The Occident had projected on the Orient and the new thoughts and ideas surged up for a vent. Bunkim began to write novels and conduct a periodical entitled “The Bangadarshan.” The magic charm of his pen soon resuscitated the Bengali language and imparted a unique life and vigour to it. Was ever genius baffled by poverty of the language? Bunkim created a new language for him and began to bring forth his immortal creations. During the latter days of his life he devoted himself to religion and religious literature, the inevitable denouement of an oriental’s life story. He wrote the life of Krishna, the Hindu incarnation of the Deity, and also other religious books. His task done in this vale of tears the spirit of Bunkim winged its ﬂight for its eternal home, and India was less by one of her noblest sons in May 1894. But the East had blended with the West and lo and behold! Bunkim standing forth against the intellectual horizon of India, a towering ﬁgure shedding its enlivening beams on the literature of Bengal for a grateful posterity to draw its life, inspiration and hope.
Chandrashekhar was ﬁrst published in successive issues of his periodical “The Bangadarshan,” mentioned above. The main historical incidents have been taken from a book in Persian entitled Seir Mutaqherin. Little need be said about Bunkim's style. It is gorgeous, rich, and vigorous. His powers of description remain yet unsurpassed by any Bengali author, and as regards the delineation of character the book will speak for itself. It will be an act of supererogation on my part to speak further on the merits of the book, as the reader will be able to judge for himself.
The work of translation is always difﬁcult. The difﬁculty in the present instance is all the more enhanced for want of afﬁnity between English and Bengali, and also on account of a complete divergence between Eastern and Western modes of thought and expression. But in spite of these difficulties, I have tried my best to make the translation as literal as possible, at the same time never allowed elegance and idiom to be sacriﬁced by following the text too closely. Certain expressions, if translated literally, would convey no idea to a foreigner. In those places I have given the English expressions and phrases which are used to express sentiments similar to those intended to be conveyed in Bengali; I have also tried where it is possible to maintain certain peculiarities of expression, a literal rendering of which conveys both the sense as well as an idea of the peculiar expression to the English reader. I have given the allusions where they are necessary, and have also given explanatory foot-notes to bring out the point of certain expressions and to make the peculiar manners and customs of the Bengalis intelligible to a foreigner. In spite of my best efforts, I do not think I have been able to make the translation as I should have liked to have done, and I have no doubt that there are many defects in it. But I have this satisfaction in my mind that I have not done the work hurriedly or perfunctorily and I have done my best. As regards the book itself I need say only one thing more, and that is, that it is regarded as one of the best of Bunkim’s novels, if not the very best.
I cannot conclude this Preface without acknowledging the very material help which my friend Mr. P. Mitter, Barrister-at-law, has rendered to me by his many valuable suggestions for which I remain ever grateful.
Debendra Ch. Mullick.
69, Serpentine Lane,
The 28th July, 1905.
Part I : THE WOMAN SINNER
Part II : SIN
Part III : THE TOUCH OF HOLINESS
Part IV : THE ATONTMENT
Part V : THE VEIL
Part VI : THE ACCOMPLISHMENT