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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Krishnakanta's Will

Bankim-Chandra Chatterjee

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To purchase Krishnakanta's Will

Title: Krishnakanta's Will
Author: Bankim-Chandra Chatterjee
Genre: Novel
Written: 1878 (Eng. 1962)
Length: 178 pages
Original in: Bengali
Availability: Krishnakanta's Will - US
Krishnakanta's Will - UK
Krishnakanta's Will - Canada
Le testament de Krishnokanto - France
  • Bengali title: কৃষ্ণকান্তের উইল
  • Translated and with an Introduction by J.C.Ghosh
  • Previously published in translations by Miriam S. Knight (1895) and D.C.Roy (1917)

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Our Assessment:

B : not enough follow-through, but has considerable charm and appeal

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Athenæum* . 5/9/1896 .
The Nation* . 19/3/1896 .
The New York Times* . 25/12/1895 .

* refers to a previous translation
  From the Reviews:
  • "The story of 'Krishna Kanta's Will' glides on with a certain purpose, but with little method, through a succession of scenes and incidents full of dramatic meaning and pathetic charm, lit up at times by a playful humour or darkened by a cloud of crime or a gust of wild passion." - The Athenæum

  • "(I)t is an excellent type of the author's strength and weakness. To Western minds, the plot may seem somewhat weak, not from lack of striking incident (...) but because of the descriptive matter which checks the progress of the story as a story." - The Nation

  • "The story is very readable and obviously expurgated. (...) The descriptive passages are clear and graphic. Doubtless in the original it is a powerful and elevating work, but folks to whom Krishna is only a name and Hindu life and customs are hardly understandable will respect it only as a curiosity in literature." - The New York Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Krishnakanta's Will begins as a typical tale of disgruntled future heirs and forged wills. Krishnakanta and his brother, Ramkanta, owned a valuable piece of land, but the property had been bought in the name of Krishnakanta. Ramkanta had a son, Govindalal, and Krishnakanta always wanted to do right by his nephew, and make sure he would eventually control that portion of the land that would be rightfully his -- but he never managed to draw up the right papers during Ramkanta's lifetime. When Krishnakanta does finally draw up his will he bequeaths half the land to his nephew -- which ticks of his own oldest son, the no-good Haralal.
       Haralal complains to his father, leading Krishnakanta to leave even less of his property to his son, and even threats such as Haralal's that he was now going to go marry a widow -- newly legal at the time, but socially and religiously still very much frowned upon -- can't move him to change his mind. So Haralal decides to do the next best thing: change the will himself, by substituting a forged one. This isn't easy, but after a few tries he seems to manage the trick -- with the help of the beautiful young Rohini. But Rohini has second thoughts and tries to set things right again -- landing herself in a heap of trouble.
       Here Govindalal steps in. He is married to a girl known as Bhramar (her real name having: "become obsolete through disuse"), whom he loves very much, despite her very dark complexion (as opposed to, for example, the very fair beauty Rohini ...). Bhramar is a mere seventeen when all this happens, but they're quite happily married -- until Govindalal tries to help out the bewitching Rohini.
       Govindalal is eventually torn between the women -- his wife: "has virtue, Rohini beauty" --, and with matters complicated by pride, miscommunication (and lack of communication), and misunderstandings between some of the actors, things get messy and complicated. Considering or actually attempting suicide is something that goes through the minds of those involved in the love triangle, and it comes to worse, too. And even if after Krishnakanta's death the way his estate is divided up ultimately does reflect what's just, the beneficiaries are unable to truly enjoy what's theirs.
       With later chapters jumping ahead over the years, Krishnakanta's Will peters out a bit, but when Chatterjee gets up close it's an often compelling and heart-breaking story. An occasional authorial presence sometimes plays it a bit too coyly, but also offers amusing commentary on the writing and presentation of the story, as in noting:

     Now I have a special need of this Rohini, and must therefore say something about her appearance and her character -- although descriptions of appearance are not much in demand these days, and it is risky under recent laws to describe anyone's character but one's own.
       While much of the story is related in fairly conventional form, parts also consist entirely of dialogue, and Chatterjee puts in some more creative touches as well, as when he has Govindalal debating what to do, with his: "Kumati (Bad Counsel) and Sumati (Good Counsel)" offering the different sides of the argument -- think a small devil and a small angel on a character's shoulders, arguing pros and cons about some action; in a very nice touch (which could be a scene straight out of a modern TV sit-com) Chatterjee has one such back and forth conclude:
Then Kumati and Sumati began to exchange blows and pull each other's hair.
       Ultimately too unevenly paced, with a few too many large gaps and jumps and uneven character development (it would have been nice to know, for example, that Bhramar is so young -- and that she has already lost a son -- much earlier on), Krishnakanta's Will nevertheless is quite an enjoyable (and moving) novel, and parts and aspects of it are excellent. From melodrama to some thriller elements, it offers quite a lot of variety too.

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 November 2011

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Krishnakanta's Will: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Bankim-Chandra Chatterjee (Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, বঙ্কিমচন্দ্র চট্টোপাধ্যায়) was a leading Indian novelist, writing in Bengali and English. He lived 1838 to 1894.

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