Fireflies in the Mist

Qurratulain Hyder, New Directions, $16.95 paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1865-8
In this blisteringly intelligent if structurally suspect novel, Hyder (1926–2007) explores Dhaka's turbulent 20th century and its violent transformations from a British-ruled Indian city to capital of an independent Bangladesh. The story centers on several students from Bengal's middle and wealthy classes, who in the late 1930s begin flirting with Marxism and dreams of freeing India from British rule. They are male and female, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and atheist, and their divergent family histories showcase a blended culture, the epitome of which is a crucial romance between Deepali, a daring Hindu girl, and Rehan, a suave, London School of Economics–educated Muslim rebel. Though their radical political gestures are less convincing than their mutual attraction, it is their political ideology, much more than religion or class bias, that defines their generation and separates it from the previous one. The novel is rich with historical and socioeconomic analysis, and though Hyder has trouble integrating everything into a cohesive narrative, the resulting story—clumsy, illuminating, challenging, digressive—begs to be savored less for its moving parts than for its sociopolitical commentary and Hyder's love for Bengal. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/26/2010
Release date: 11/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
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