Book Review: The Fifth Man by Bani Basu ( Translated by Arunava Sinha)

  • ISIN: 978-81-8400-572-1
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Publishers: Random house India
  • Price: Rs. 299/- (I got this book from the publisher for review)
Neelam’s hysterectomy at thirty hastens her into a sexless middle age and changes her relationship with her husband Ari. Their marriage remains stagnant until an unexpected telegram announces the visit of Ari’s ex-girlfriend Esha. By coincidence, their college professor Mahanam also arrives at their doorstep bearing an uncanny resemblance to Ari’s daughter. Events conspire to send all of them on a trip to Ajanta and Ellora where ancient stories spark memories of lost love and betrayal. Both deeply philosophical and playfully dramatic, The Fifth Man is a bittersweet meditation on middle-age desire. 

Behind The book
Source: Google Images

About the author

Bani Basu (born 11 March 1939[1]) is a Bengali Indian author, essayist, critic and poet. She was educated at the well-known Scottish Church College and at the University of Calcutta.

She began her career as a novelist with the publication of Janmabhoomi Matribhoomi. A prolific writer, her novels have been regularly published in Desh, the premier literary journal of Bengal. Her major works include Swet Patharer Thaala (The Marble Salver), Ekushe Paa (twenty One Steps), Maitreya Jataka (published as The Birth of the Maitreya by Stree), Gandharvi, Pancham Purush (The Fifth Man, or Fifth Generation?) and Ashtam Garbha (The Eighth Pregnancy). She was awarded the Tarashankar Award for Antarghaat (Treason), and the Ananda Purashkar for Maitreya Jataka. She is also the recipient of the Sushila Devi Birla Award and the Sahitya Setu Puraskar. She translates extensively into Bangla and writes essays, short stories and poetry.

Bani Basu has been conferred upon Sahitya Academy Award 2010,one of India's highest literary awards, for her contribution to Bengali literature.

Me thinks

Human relationships continue to be perhaps the most complex thing that exist around us. One moment we love someone, the other we despise them. Next moment we are angry, hurt about something we had just laughed a couple of moments ago. How complex we can be and how complex we can make the relations we share with others is something that has been captured very aptly in this book by the author.

Though it is a translated work the translator Anubhava Sinha has managed to retain the original voice of the narrative so very well. Not many translated works manage to do this! The story revolves around 3 couples each seeking something from life in different forms and ending up feeling dissatisfied. That in a line is the harsh reality of life. We all seek different things in life – different answers to sometimes similar questions and end up feeling disappointed at not getting what we wanted but the ultimate question remains do we actually know what we want from life, from relationships, from people around us and most importantly from our own self.

And perhaps it is this complexity which makes this book such an amazing read, a deep dark journey into the human psyche trying to unveil the mystery behind all that pain, anguish, heart breaks, hurt and longing that we seem to hold onto despite it all. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy reading vivid descriptions of human emotions, their ethos and dwell in their ugliness which has a strange beauty associated with it.

For me this is one, that is like a cobweb at our homes. Ugly to the sight in the beginning but reminiscent of the fact that life exists between these walls. It is perhaps at that time when we notice the other wise unnoticed walls.

Foodie Verdict

This book is like vanilla cupcake- simple from the outside, tempting and delicious from the inside!

Source: Google Images


  1. Loved the review, Privy.
    Am in aww of this book since relationships have always enticed me on a personal level.

    1. Ruchira am sure you will love reading this one, believe me!


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