Nabarun Bhattacharya: Credit: Aranya Sen

Nabarun Bhattacharya

Nabarun Bhattacharya (1948–2014) was an Indian Bengali writer who was committed to a revolutionary and radical aesthetics. He was the only child of the acclaimed actor and playwright Bijon Bhattacharya and the writer and activist Mahashweta Devi. The author of a dozen major novels, the most famous of which is Harbart, he was also a poet.


Poor, hard-luck Harbart Sarkar—born into a fancy Calcutta family but cursed from birth. Orphaned as a baby, he is taken into his uncle’s house, only to fall further and further down the family totem pole. Despite his native talents and good looks (with his “Hollywood-ish air, Leslie Howard-ish air”), he is scorned by all but his kind aunt. Poor Harbart: so lovable but so little loved. Cheated of his inheritance, living on the roof in hand-me-down clothing, he pines for love, but all is woe: his own nephews beat him up.…
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A remarkable resurrection, one that erupts full-blooded, alive with laughter, stink and rage.
—John Domini, The Washington Post
Swift and strange, Harbart tells the story of its titular character, an orphan whose life is characterized by loss and longing: a sweeping view of the richness and the turmoil of Bengali culture, literature, and politics in the twentieth century.
The New Yorker
What is needed [now] is a kind of novel that attends to how society is being organized by certain vested interests; a novel that goes to the heart—rather, goes for the jugular—of the economic system itself. Harbart is prophetic of this tradition to come.
—Ratik Asokan, 4Columns
Harbart reads like Rainer Maria Rilke’s Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge set in Calcutta. Featuring a young man with an open channel to the dead who drinks and grieves to excess, it is a mosaic of manic and immersive episodes. It is a spinning drunken stumble through a city that feels menacingly sensual.
—Nate McNamara, Lit Hub
Bhattacharya occupies an uneasy place in the pantheon of Bengali greats— celebrated, disillusioned, and most subversive.
The Indian Express
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