Like a true blend of ancient and modern writing, Khosrul Hossain’s “Lute of the Nightingale” is one powerful piece of the talented writer’s ability to write fiction. The length of the work may be less, yet the depth it creates and the lively characters that appear show the strong influences of Rabindranath Tagore and Sir Bankim Chandra Chaterjee on the young novelist’s mind. The author smartly explores and takes an insight into the stories and lives of different generations in less word in a brief manner.
Set in post 1971 Bangladesh-Bengal, the story revolves around the central character, Reshmi. The protagonist is mute, she is dumb, she cannot speak but as the author mentions in the subtitle, “The girl who spoke with her Ink” and by her ink she develops a connection with the reader. She may be mute throughout the novel, yet her words (the poetry she wrote) wins the reader’s hearts. Through her Hossain explores the difficulty of expressing the emotions and thoughts as she can’t speak. He makes the best attempts to tell the readers the expressions she gives or the gestures she makes to explain herself. The readers feel sympathetic towards her and helplessly watch her end. Her end only makes her an unforgettable protagonist.
Since Hossain is an avid reader himself of immensely talented writers, the influence is amply visible in the poetic talents he shows while exhibiting his ability to write prose as a novelist.
At the surface level, the novel seems to be a simple tragic love story with the central theme being the power of the ability to speak, but there are a lot of issues that the author has tried to raise though his writing. One of these different themes is, love and its purity. Not just the love of a lover for the loved one but also the love in relationships of sisters, aunt and uncle. How selfless love can make a person is clearly shown when Taslima (protagonist’s aunt who takes care of her more than a mother) sacrifices her life to take care of her sister Rajia after their parents pass away.
Another issue that keeps recurring is of dying humanity. Certain characters make brief appearances in the story but they appear equally realistic and lively. These characters are the ones who endorse patriarchy and highlight the fact that how humanity is dying. Taslima and Rajia meet men from different walks of life. But all of them only intend to exploit them. Not only those men but also the characters of Keshob’s stories. The dying humanity emerges as a major reason for selfishness among humans which is one other theme the author focuses on. This selfishness as a result promotes double standards in the society and innocent people like Taslima and Rajia become its victims. The dream sequence is also present in the story and through that the reader understands the importance of dreams. How Rajia sees her mother in the dream, how Reshmi sees Rajia in her dream and how Reshmi gets dreams of different things every night is also an interesting way to interpret things happening to her.
Our decisions are the major game changers in life and the author shows this through the decisions taken by Taslima, Rajia and Himaloy. Had Himaloy not to held on to the past for that long and would have let it go, perhaps he could have been Reshmi for longer. His decision only led to Reshmi’s reaching her miserable state at a quicker pace by which the author smartly threw light on another theme, the transience of human life. Perhaps the most important theme which the reader is unable to forget at the very mention of Taslima is how society and circumstances are responsible for the position of women forcing them to enter the flesh trade business. Taslima herself admits of having dreamt to have a nice little family and a simple life. But the change of circumstances do not leave her with any other choice. Even then, she fiercely protects her sister and wants the best for her. She does whatever she can to give her the life of her dreams and tries to live her dreams through her. As a result, she takes care of Reshmi in the most selfless manner possible.
Quite unlike contemporary writing, the author also uses literary techniques like usage of metaphors, mise-en-abyme (story within a story) and hence writes powerful lines. He also cleverly uses the analepsis (flashback) technique indirectly through the letter form. Overall, the book will have more appeal to the grown up age group who want to read something practical and reality based and not just the story of selfless love of a girl who spoke with her ink.