A Death in Shonagachhi
Longlisted | Book Awards 2022 | English Fiction
A Death in Shonagachhi
Longlisted for The JCB Prize for Literature 2021 'Rijula Das has evaded the prevalent tropes of writing. The book manages to achieve everything that good literature does while at the same time being entertaining' – 2021 JCB Prize Jury 'A deeply sensitive portrait of life (and death) in a red-light district’ – Tanuj Solanki ‘Addictive and hilarious’ – Avni Doshi 'Takes us deep into the hidden and harsh universes of the layered city of Calcutta’ – Sarnath Banerjee
In the red-light district of Shonagachhi, Lalee dreams of trading a life of penury and violence for one of relative luxury as a better-paid ‘escort’, just as her long-standing client, erotic novelist Trilokeshwar ‘Tilu’ Shau, realizes he is hopelessly in love with her.
When a young woman who lives next door to Lalee is brutally murdered, a spiral of deceit and crime further disturbs the fragile stability of their existence. Despite misgivings, Lalee lets new opportunities promising wealth and respite lure her away from the familiar confines of her neighbourhood. But beneath the facade of the plush hotels lies an underbelly of unimaginable secrets that will endanger her life and that of numerous women like her. As the local Sex Workers’ Collective’s protests against government and police inaction and their calls for justice for the deceased woman gain fervour, Lalee and Tilu must each embark on a life-altering misadventure in order to escape a similarly savage fate.
Set in Calcutta’s most fabled neighbourhood, A Death in Shonagachhi is a literary noir as gritty and devastating as it is wry and tender, laying bare the ruthlessness that preys upon our society’s outcasts and the impediments to dignity and love. Chekhovian in spirit and reminiscent of the works of Nabarun Bhattacharya, it introduces us to an astonishing new writer.
Rijula Das received her PhD in Creative Writing in 2017 from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where she taught writing for two years. She is a recipient of the 2019 Michael King Writers Centre Residency in Auckland and the 2016 Dastaan Award for her short story ‘Notes from a Passing’. Her short story ‘The Grave of The Heart Eater’ was longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2019. A Death in Shonagachhi is her first novel. Rijula is from West Bengal and lives in Wellington, New Zealand.