Book Review: ‘The Meat Market’ by Mashiul Alam and Shabnam Nadiya

Reflective, hyper-realistic and thought provoking

Book Title: The Meat Market: Ten Stories and a Novella
Author: Mashiul Alam
Translator: Shabnam Nadiya
Publisher: Eka
Number of Pages: 260
ISBN: 978-9360459352
Date Published: Apr. 15, 2024
Price: INR 369

The Meat Market by Mashiul Alam Book Cover

Book Review

Bangladeshi writer and translator Shabnam Nadiya’s translation of writer and translator who was born in northern Bangladesh in 1968, Mashiul Alam’s “The Meat Market” is a disturbing and moving short tale that explores themes of sacrifice, consumerism, and the brutality that underlies our society’s conventions yet is frequently ignored.

One of the collection stories is set against the backdrop of Bangladesh’s Eid-ul-Azha, which centers on Aminul Islam, a man who encounters the actual and figurative brutality of the meat market. The story opens with Aminul being awakened by his wife to purchase meat for the Eid feast, a task that seems mundane but is soon revealed to be fraught with moral complexity. As Aminul navigates the streets, he is confronted with the visceral imagery of sacrifice—a stark reminder of the holiday’s religious significance and the physicality of death that accompanies it.

Similarly, another story Horse, is a thought-provoking exploration of idealism and reality through the symbol of a winged white horse, representing an unattainable ideal as per Plato’s philosophy. The narrative weaves through the protagonist’s life, from youthful dreams influenced by his grandmother’s tales to philosophical musings on the origins and significance of this fantastical horse. Alam’s rich storytelling uses allegory and symbolism to ponder the dichotomy between the ideal and the real, suggesting that the pursuit of perfection may not fit in the practical world. “Horse” is a compelling read that resonates with anyone grappling with the pursuit of ideals in an imperfect reality.

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Alam’s writing depicts butchery with vivid imagery, symbolizing society’s desensitization to violence and misery. The book contrasts the joyous mood of existence with the terrible reality of life and death, urging readers to consider the ethical implications of their consuming habits. It highlights humanity’s ability to compartmentalize and rationalize violence, raising concerns about the moral value of tradition and comfort.

Finally, “The Meat Market,” translated by Shabnam Nadiya, is remarkable for its vivid storytelling and ability to elicit reflection on often-overlooked cultural traditions. The translation accurately portrays the story’s emotional weight and cultural intricacies, making it more accessible to a wider audience. This gripping story forces readers to confront hard social realities and personal introspections, leaving an impression long beyond the last page and demonstrating Alam’s ability to explore the darkest aspects of human nature.

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