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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Taslima Nasrin

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To purchase Revenge

Title: Revenge
Author: Taslima Nasrin
Genre: Novel
Written: 1992 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 174 pages
Original in: Bangla
Availability: Revenge - US
Revenge - UK
Revenge - Canada
Revenge - India
শোধ - India
  • Bangla title: শোধ
  • Translated by Honor Moore, with Taslima Nasrin
  • Previously translated as Getting Even by Rani Ray (2002)

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Our Assessment:

B- : reasonably well-told, but ultimately too shallow and simplistic

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 19/11/2010 Arifa Akbar

  From the Reviews:
  • "Nasrin's inversion of the expected narrative arc of a revenge story is clever enough, but it leaves her heroine's integrity compromised." - Arifa Akbar, The Independent

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:

       Revenge is narrated by Jhumur, an educated Bangladeshi young woman, describing her life as a newlywed. She married Haroon after a happy and passionate courtship, certain that they were completely in love, but marriage changes people and circumstances. The educated woman with a degree in physics is now the buo, her role as daughter-in-law in her husband's family's household as important as that of wife -- and there ain't no other role left for her. It's all about appearances, suddenly, with Haroon not wanting his wife to go outside if she doesn't have to -- indeed, he wants her even to control her laughter: after all, what will the neighbors think ? It's an absurd situation: for example, the family has a perfectly good cook, but Jhumur is now expected to take charge -- leading her to wonder:

Why, I asked myself, does this family pant for my cooking when in a sane world I could barely qualify as Rosuni's assistant ?
       Still, she goes along with things, even if she's bored to near-tears -- there's not enough work to keep her busy -- and she takes her place in the relatively large household that is supported by Haroon (a successful businessman), which includes his ne'er-do-well brothers. It takes some getting used to, since Jhumur has always also played with the boys and had male friends and gone out simply to have fun, and now finds herself a shut-in, shut off from both her friends and family. And even Haroon won't take her out to show her a good time. Worse comes when what should be a blessing happens: not long after the wedding Jhumur finds she is pregnant. Rather than be thrilled by this turn of events the demented Haroon gets all sulky: he can't believe that he is the father, imagining instead that Jhumur rushed him into marriage because she was pregnant by someone else. Haroon's irrational reaction is entirely unbelievable -- but then it is unbelievable to Jhumur as well, and her continuing sense of frustrated disbelief presumably is meant to convince the reader as well.
       Haroon insists on Jhumur getting an abortion, and after that immediately sets about trying to impregnate her. Jhumur is understandably upset about the turn of events, though the abortion itself and the loss of the child seems to trouble her less than Haroon's betrayal of their love, the fact the he would not believe her. The way she sees it is that: "Haroon violated the very core of my being with his unwarranted suspicion".
       When circumstances bring a single, independent-minded artist (who paints nudes, of course) into the building -- the brother-in-law of a tenant and friend of Jhumur's -- it doesn't take much for Jhumur to take up with him. Oblivious Haroon doesn't have a clue he is being cuckolded -- he's really a man who only sees what he wants to see, and, boy, is he selective -- while Jhumur sees this as a perfect opportunity to get back at him: she'll get pregnant by another man, making Haroon's worst dishonoring nightmare come true. (The conveniently naïve Haroon is willingly convinced that sleeping with Jhumur while she has her period is an ideal way of knocking her up, so it's pretty easy for Jhumur to arrange who will be the father of her child.)
       "My child would be the fruit of my independence", Jhumur says, and in a way she's right: not allowed to be independent in any other way, cheating on her husband is her only outlet. (Eventually -- the book fast forwards through the first three years of the child's life in the final chapter -- she can and does assert quite full independence on the back of this one act; still, it's an odd message to be sending.) When Jhumur does get pregnant, Haroon is thrilled and becomes over-indulgent; when the child is born he is also over the moon -- and a more than perfect (and very proud) father. Everything conveniently falls into place, with even the artist taking off for Australia, and thus no longer in the way after he's finished with his inseminating duties (not that there wasn't quite a bit of passion to go with that) -- but then that's the problem with much of this book: everything falls a bit too conveniently into place.
       In summary the book seems to have a great deal of potential: there are fascinating family dynamics at work here, and interesting reactions to mores and expectations. Nasrin populates her novel with an interesting cast of characters, including the doctor who befriends Jhumur (the one who lives in the house, and whose brother-in-law she has the affair with), who comes with an interesting set of issues of her own, and the interpersonal relationships among family and friends are fascinating -- except, like most of the book, they remain largely woefully underdeveloped. The arc that finds Jhumur go from veiled shut-in that isn't allowed to laugh out loud to a woman with a job, bantering once again with her (male) friends over a meal (and at the same time still happily married to Haroon) just isn't convincingly presented. Haroon, in particular, is a mystifying fellow -- to Jhumur, too, admittedly, but that doesn't help much --, and he and his actions are fairly difficult to believe, at least as sketched out here. And, yes, most of the novel is sketched out, rather than truly written, a shame because when Nasrin describes a scene or interaction more closely the writing is often quite good.
       Some of the messages are presented rather dubiously, too: the case for allowing women considerable personal independence and freedoms seems an obvious one, yet the way Nasrin twists it makes it less rather than more convincing (and the fact that Jhumur seems to shrug off the abortion so lightly doesn't sit particularly well either, making it harder to sympathize with her). The rich potential of Jhumur finding revenge or relief in another man's arms also isn't nearly exploited enough, as Nasrin doesn't capture that particular passion very well.
       Ultimately Revenge is too simplistic, both in its message and execution. Nasrin shows some talent, but lets too much get away from her here.

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 October 2010

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Revenge: Reviews: Taslima Nasrin: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin (তসলিমা নাসরিন) was born in 1962.

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© 2010-2022 the complete review

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