Punyaha: Tanveer Anoy’s First Queer-Novel Set on Your Midlife

Cover Design: Ankur Sinha


R E V I E W – N O V E L


Fiana Islam


If you are searching for a good read this spring to fill up your spare time, and have a hunger to explore any contemporary Bangla literature, then Tanveer Anoy’s Punyaha is the best option for you. 

To start off, the story is written from a third-person narrative. The protagonist is called Farzana, a middle-aged woman seen to struggle between her married life and social life. Her husband, Mahfuz, is the antagonist of this novel who by all means is a stereotypical and arrogant man. The climax begins when Farzana tries to avoid her family dramas and finds herself involved with a third person, a lady called Shamita.

There is a very subtle hint of a queer relationship between Farzana and Shamita — if the readers are open enough, they will acknowledge it. The way we usually observe queer literature, either too romantic or too depressing, Punyaha is far away from that representation. The internal unfolding of this novel is actually quite unique for our Bangali culture as it may not seem at first.

Although the mention of queerness is viewable, some chapters could be a bit more direct in my sense. In few places, the dialogues are so raw and intense that it feels tough to keep the concentration on. However, if truth to be told, though the plot does not have any great suspense, it is clearly unpredictable each time, and is enough to make you turn the pages on.

Unlike other contemporary authors, Tanveer Anoy has highlighted the secondary characters in this book very thoroughly. Presented in the form of an individual story, the readers will come across the second most important character of this novel, Shamita. Her constant struggle with herself and the steps that she has taken to be independent of all the societal shackles will shake the readers to the core. Other than her, Farzana’s stepdaughter Prachy is one of the boldest characters in this novel, a teenage girl with a fearless heart will make anyone think about her for a while.

Punyaha has this gripping quality of focusing on the antagonist too. Mahfuz as an antagonist is neither underdeveloped nor overlooked in any way, rather he sets an example of toxic masculinity and how it can gruesomely affect any family or relations.  

The way I see it, the novel basically speaks of these two lead female characters’ roles — how they see life, their ups and downs, and the people around them. Although I personally do believe that Shamita stole the show by unleashing her long-lost fierce side, which somehow was suppressed this entire time — whether that was due to society or family; she outsmarted everything. Moreover, the side characters are the lifelines of Punyaha as they seem to cover all the empty blocks of the main ones.

The tone of this novel, if I must admit, is a bit melancholic yet captivating. Undoubtedly, some of the character growths and diverse personalities throughout the whole novel fit in this melancholia perfectly. The ending could be more descriptive or detailed, however, it has a good wrap-up.

What I love about the book mostly is, it has some extremely relatable moments. Without any extra sugar-coating, the book deals with the aspects of love, pain, hatred, and identity crisis really well. As a social drama, the novel itself draws attention, and all the scenes will begin to float in front of the readers’ eyes.     

Punyaha has been published by Boobook and will be available at the Ekushey Book Fair 2021, too. I would rate this book a 4.5 out of 5 for its controversial story and the overall genuine formation. As a debut author, Tanveer Anoy has surely imprinted a mark on contemporary Bangali literature and accordingly succeeded.

 


Fiana is a human-ish writer by day and a Scorpio coven witch by nightfall. Reach out to her @_ffikipedia_ to share any thoughts.

 

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