Book Review: ‘Harbart’ by Naburn Bhattacharya

Reviewed by Amritbir Kaur

Harbart Sarkar, the protagonist of the novel ‘Harbart’ by Nabarun Bhattacharya (translated to English by Arunava Sinha), is the sole proprietor of a business. He has had a tragic and eventful childhood. Harbart was the son of Lalit Kumar and Shobharani. His father lost all the money in gambling that he had made from the war economy. Harbart lost his parents when he was less than two years old; his father in an accident and his mother due to electrocution. Having faced such a tumultuous childhood, he goes on to live with his uncle, Girish Kumar. Life was not smooth for him even after that shift. He had to live on the charity of his relatives. Being a highly neglected child, nobody noticed that he had left his school and only indulged in a bit of self-study.
His life takes a sudden, complete turn when he discovers a skull along with a few bones lying in a trunk in his room. The discovery of such things gives a huge boost to his hunger for knowing about the mysterious death and after-life. And this was the beginning of his intriguing business. And his business is nothing short of the most extraordinary. He is into communicating messages of the dead to their near and dear ones on this Earth. Then in continuing with the chain of turn of events, one night after a bout of drinking Harbart is discovered dead in his room. With a view to gathering an insight into the after-world, he took to reading more and more on such topics.
While going through this novel, the rational reader might find this pill a bit too hard to digest. Despite a sense of skepticism being there that dominates a major part of the novel, there are times when the reader feels for Harbart. For instance, it is heartbreaking when Harbart is labeled as an impostor.
One incident that gives a new direction to Harbart’s life is Binu’s revelation at his death-bed. Binu tells Harbart of his private diary.
The narrative technique is a bit complicated for a casual reader as it frequently shifts focus from the known to the unknown. The book has a few flaws that creep into the fabric of literary translations. It is worth a one-time read, as there are parts, which make you read more of it.
Do share your take on the book once you read it!

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