27 Aug / Revenge by Taslima Nasrin, translated by Honor Moore, with Taslima Nasrin
Author/physician/women’s rights activist Taslima Nasrin‘s literary career is perhaps more famous for her detractors’ reactions – bannings, book burnings, effigy burnings, fatwas, protests, personal assaults, exile from her home country of Bangladesh – than for the actual words on the page. One always wonders in all that furious, violent – seemingly contagious and addictive – protest how many of those naysayers and attackers have actually, truly read the work … but that’s probably a complicated topic to be discussed elsewhere.
Nasrin’s latest novel available in English (with an original copyright date of 1992) uses the relationship between a newly-pregnant young woman and her hypocritical husband to reveal the limitations and injustices women must suffer in the traditional Muslim home.
Brought up by loving, supportive parents with relative freedom and access to higher education, Jhumur chooses to marry charming, indulgent Haroon. But once she moves into his family home – constantly surrounded by his parents, siblings, and their families – Haroon expects Jhumur to instantly be the obedient, subservient Muslim wife. Jhumur must cover her head, she can’t stand too close to the windows lest the neighbors see her, she cannot go out without Haroon’s permission even as he discourages any contact with her friends and even her family; Jhumur becomes a virtual prisoner of her new home.
When she becomes pregnant, she is shocked by Haroon’s indifference which quickly turns to inexplicable anger. In disbelieving shock, she succumbs to his irrational demands, then turns inward and withdraws. Without a choice, she becomes that expected dutiful wife, even as she mourns her university education, her carefree pre-married life, and what she expected would have been jubilation over her first chid.
When a new couple moves in downstairs, Jhumur quickly becomes close friends with the wife, whom her family comes to revere as she is also an accomplished doctor. Living with the couple temporarily is the doctor-wife’s brother-in-law, an artist as yet undecided about his future …
As Jhumur’s new friendship begins to reawaken her sense of self, she begins to plot her revenge … using the only means she has in her power.
Nasrin’s slim novel is a revealing treatise of the endless hypocrisy and senseless injustice against women in the name of religious traditions; she’s got all the right fodder – from the subtle to the blatant– that enflame fundamentalist principles. But that’s exactly why readers should read this book. If nothing else, her detractors should at least know what they’re protesting … they might even learn a necessary thing or two.
Published: 1992; 2010 (United States)