Author: Sabarna Roy
Publisher: Frog Books
Frosted Glass comprises one story cycle consisting of 14 stories and one poem cycle consisting of 21 poems. The Stories, set in Calcutta, bring to the fore the darkness lurking in the human psyche and bare the baser instincts. The stories, compactly written raise contemporary issues like man-woman relationships and its strains, moral and ethics, environmental degradation, class inequality, rapid and mass-scale unmindful urbanisation, are devoid of sentimentalization. They move around the central character who is named Rahul in all the stories. We encounter the events that shape, mar, guide Rahul's life and also the lives of those around him, making us question the very essence of existence. Rahul symbolises modern man; he is not just one character, but all of us rolled into one.
Books like 'Frosted Glass' are nightmares for reviewers. There is so much good and bad about the book that it is a tough choice to make a decision. The character 'Rahul' is repeated in each of the story, so after reading few of them, you stop relating to him because subconsciously you are still thinking of the previous story. The author could have so easily name all the male characters with different names in the story and still come out with that common feeling of fake, half-done relationships.
There is a long list of sexual desires depicted in the book - threesomes and foursomes, making out in public places, exhibitionism in front of painters, kinky pleasure of getting raped by mutual consent, fellatio by a 12-year-old, extra-marital affairs gone wrong in bed, sexual experiments with homosexuals and so on. I am hardly straitlaced to be affected by such repressed and unconventional methods of portraying relationships but the sensation of being on a high fades away after a while when the writing gets repetitive with the sexual escapades, and to a point it becomes draining and boring.
The story cycle still stands out for dispassionate style with which betrayal in personal relationships and resultant loneliness has been handled. The best thing is that the writer does not take sides between the betrayer and the betrayal and hence, you can empathize completely with that bitchy, saucy relationships. The poems weave a maze of dreams, images, reflections and stories. They are written in a reflective and many a time in a narrative tenor within a poetic idiom. The poems are inseparable in a hidden way and are elegantally sequenced.
I am going with 2.5/5 for Sabarna Roy's 'Frosted Glass. It is not a bad book by any means, but with a little more restraint and non-over-indulgence, it could have been so much better. In the hand, reading it feel likes being to your favourite restaurant but being undone by their signature dish.