Review: Shei Somoy (Those Days)

Shei Somoy by Sunil Gangopadhyay

A review

Shei Somoy (Those Days) is a landmark historical novel by Sunil Gangopadhyay in which he paints a lively and vivid picture of the city of Kolkata in particular and Bengal in general in the period between 1840 and 1870.

In contrast to the period described in his other famous historical novel set in British India, the period under focus here is one of predominantly darkness – of ignorance, of religious dogmatism, of a society overflowing with vice and steeped in slumber. However, there are flickers of light in the form of the emergence of a realization in a few. And it is these few – including social reformers, carriers of a new religious idea and exponents of literature of a language in its infancy, that the novel gains a refreshing dazzle in the otherwise despairing atmosphere. Sunil Gangopadhyay’s astounding style is evident though in both darkness and light.

Shei Somoy, however, does not lack great characters. While Vidyasagar is a glowing flame of morality and courage in the muck around him, Michael Madhusudan Dutta is weirdly endearing as the gifted poet with a bohemian lifestyle. The Tagore family – its early roots culminating in Dwarkanath and his son Debendranath along with the Brahmo movement in the background makes for an interesting read. Sunil’s pen brings to life not just the Indian stalwarts of the era but remarkable figures from the then ruling community like Hare and Bethune.

Shei Somoy is a must-read if you are fond of historical novels or wish to acquaint yourself with the history of the city of Kolkata while enjoying a tightly plot novel simultaneously.

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