Calcutta Nights (Raater Kolkata) is the real-life story of the enigmatic `Meghnad Gupta', pen name of famed Bengali fiction writer Hemendra Kumar Roy. Translated into English by Rajat Chaudhuri almost a century after the first publication of Raater Kolkata in 1923, Roy reveals to contemporary readers the darkest secrets of an earlier Calcutta.
The first two decades of the last century, the backdrop for this book, were politically turbulent times. Those days, Calcutta, the erstwhile capital of British India, was teeming with people from different parts of the country besides Europeans and other foreigners. It was a city of sin, pleasure and suffering. Indians who arrived and settled here mingled with locals, some of them picking up dress, manners and the wanton lifestyles of the Bengali `babu’ while others kept their identities intact. All this created a unique cosmopolitan setting, coloured with shades of debauchery, darkness and crime that this first-hand account brilliantly recounts.
Written in an age very different from ours, certain views of the author could be jarring for the present times. However, these need to be tempered by the understanding of the sociopolitical contexts and the distance of a century separating us from Meghnad Gupta's Calcutta. Calcutta Nights is the Hootum Pyanchar Naksha (published in 1862 and penned by Kaliprasanna Sinha) of the early twentieth century a book that will help anyone understand the contrasts and colours of a unique Indian metropolis.
`Masterfully translated'- The Telegraph
`Translator craftily balances archaic words with new ones, never upsetting the tonal authenticity of a period piece.'- Scroll
`A unique cosmopolitan setting'- Business Standard
`Excellent translation ... a crisp read'- Ganesh Saili, New Indian Express
`A tale of beauty and decadence'- South China Morning Post
`Interesting ... for readers interested in history and the Asian experience of transition to modernity' - Asian Review of Books, Hong Kong
`A guidebook to the dark dens of eeriness'- Press Trust of India (PTI)
`What a punch this little volume packs' - India Abroad News Service of India (IANS)