Sabarna Roy: A tour de force in Indian English writing

Sabarna Roy used to write poems in English and Bengali during his university years between 1984 and 1988. He also published his first slim book of English poems in 1986, which was titled: Pain and was an instant hit among students. When he joined the industry in 1988, he stopped writing. He wrote a full-length play in Bengali, a romantic comedy and a part thriller, in 1994, which was published much later in 2010 in the renowned annual edition of Bohurupee Journal.

Sabarna Roy started out as a serious author in July 2007 about which he often says, “I felt like if I did not write I would die.” Thereafter, there was no looking back, and he continued producing literary masterpieces one after the other, starting from 2010.

His first book, titled: Pentacles contain one novella and 4 long ballads. His second book, titled: Frosted Glass contains a story cycle comprising 14 long intertwined stories and a poem cycle of 21 reflective and narrative poems. His third book, titled: Abyss is a full-length play and a crime thriller. His fourth book, titled: Winter Poems is a collection of a series: Winter Poems 2010 comprising 12 razor-sharp poems and Winter Poems 2012 consisting of 26 short, equally intense poems. His fifth book, titled: Random Subterranean Mosaic: 2012-2018 is a kaleidoscope of various genres of writing. His sixth book, titled: Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020 consists of a novella, titled: Duality and Winter Poems 2020 comprising 20 narrative poems, which represent the conflict between the poet and his alter-ego. His sixth book hit the markets in Kindle form in June 2020 and the hardbound edition is likely to be published in October 2020.

Pentacles and Winter Poems have been made into audiobooks by Amazon Audible and narrated by the Australian jazz singer, Colin Newcomer.

All the literary works of Sabarna have been critically hailed in India and abroad and have become bestsellers from time to time.

One of the interesting aspects of Sabarna’s books is, apart from Abyss and Winter Poems, he has mixed various genres to narrate multifarious stories he has to tell.

His stories majorly center in an around Calcutta/Kolkata and he covers a time span between 1980 and the present, specifically from which a reader can graphically glimpse the changing life of Calcutta/Kolkata in a vivid manner. In that sense he is one of the powerful post-modern chroniclers of Calcutta/Kolkata.

Sabarna writes densely about complex and intriguing human relationships, including homosexuality and love for eunuchs and transgenders. Betrayal in human relationships is one of his core subjects embedded in the duality of morals and ethics, environmental degradation, class inequality, rapid and mass-scale unmindful urbanization, and his narrations are devoid of sentimentalization and since they are deeply dispassionate, they bring them very close to becoming seminal black comedies.

He also has a love for using incompleteness as an effective tool to keep his audience gaping. New Life in Pentacles and Incomplete Conversation Set Pieces in Random Subterranean Mosaic: 2012-2018 are the brightest examples of using incompleteness in the most effective manner.

Sabarna’s works are replete with darkness and skewed emotions of human beings, yet they are not lifeless. He infuses a strange hope beyond despair subtly whereby readers can feel relief beyond the horizon of blackness.

Sabarna examines betrayal in human relationships without taking sides between the betrayer and who is betrayed almost in a cold-hearted manner. It feels having read his books as if the betrayer could have been the one who is betrayed or the person who has been betrayed could have been the betrayer. Simply put, he examines situations and characters by amplifying the conditions and contextualizing them through many aesthetic tools, like realism, magic realism, surrealism and stream-of-consciousness.

Another leitmotif in Sabarna’s works is his critical understanding of death. He closely studies death as a phenomenon through his characters and situations in stories after stories and poems after poems in a mysterious manner. In one of the poems in Winter Poems, he writes: 

They forgot to put my body on fire

On freshly chopped logs of wood

On oil cracking and boiling

They forgot the charm of cotton ball plugs, the sight of wetted white petals of fecund flowers, the absent-minded twirl of smoke chains, incense sticks, the sonorous trail of holy hymns, crackling sounds of earthen pots, and above all, the communal mourning around a corpse

Sabarna Roy publishes with the Leadstart Publishing of Mumbai and he is already a tour de force in Indian English writing.


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