In his writing Bhaskar Roy explores unfamiliar territory and looks beyond the known world for usually overlooked things.
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The Defeat or Distant Drumbeat

Like all first novels, there is a strong element of autobiography here. Roy is a journalist with a five-year-old daughter… it reads well and holds the reader’s attention. Roy will go far in the writing world.

Khushwant Singh, The Hindustan Time

The first novel by journalist Bhaskar Roy could be described as a work in the genre of magic realism… Roy has done a commendable job. The pace is racy and the narrative never flags. Where Roy is really in his element is in the magical part. The narration of the adventures of Bhola and the Vanished Kingdom and the haunted house shows much promise.

S. S. Percy,  The Hindu

An Escape into Silence

An Escape into Silence, set in the backdrop of the armed Naxalite movement and the repressive Emergency, has been greeted by the literary circles as an authentic evocation of the turbulent Seventies. Excerpts from some of the reviews:

Bhaskar Roy’s novel is fascinating. This beautifully crafted literary creation makes history vivid and alive. Roy portrays Bappa – the central character – with great care. His inner world, his pain, agony and deeper feelings touch the reader. As Bappa explores the world, the narrative acquires great power; it engages the reader. Amidst the smell of the local train, the pattern of living in a small town, group meetings and poetry sessions, life reveals its complexity.

With Bappa the reader too begins to experience the hollowness of what is otherwise being projected as an ‘anti-Establishment’ life-project. One sees the intolerance of the Marxist party machinery which, it was thought, would finally restore freedom and happiness!

As Bappa’s disillusionment with the party politics intensifies his loneliness, he recalls Mrittika, her poetry, her body, mind and soul. It is in Mrittika and Mrittika alone that he can find his salvation, and realize the ultimate victory of poetry over all sorts of regimentation, meanness and violence… One day she comes to Ashoknagar, and Bappa believes that the impossible has happened.

Bappa held her with both hands, as close to himself as possible. His face rested on her head. Overcoming the sweet smell from her hair, the faint perfume from the body, came the intoxicating fragrance of seeds, of elemental rain piercing the heart of earth around the shed. She did not resist…

Is it an escape into silence? Or is it the recovery of the language we have lost amidst the noise of the world?

Avijit Pathak, Mainstream

Bhaskar Roy’s novel offers a mature view of life and politics in Bengal, from the Naxalite movement through the years of the Emergency and beyond. Ostensibly about a young man’s coming of age in a confused political climate, it is in effect a portrayal of a disenchanted society that dares to hope in spite of individual and ideological betrayals. An Escape into Silence is a story of love, longing and living history. A young writer struggles to make sense of a world woven out of memory, history, legends, heartbreaks and the curious politics of opportunism and indoctrination…And it is clear that Roy’s long experience as a political journalist covering daily news has significantly enriched this engrossing novel.

The Little Magazine

An Escape into Silence has a deceptive quietude about its title and the opening chapters. But once you have entered the world of Bachchuda, the Marxist street fighter, you are swept by the surge of passion…The novel brings alive familiar sights and sounds. The class differences are real and yet melt compulsorily. Typically the boxwallah sahib and the indigent rickshaw puller are both affected by the disruptive violence of the times… An Escape into Silence looks at collective power systems and the smallness of individual will. Whether it is the Naxalite era or the Emergency, college elections or the neighbourhood ballot box, how much of our lives are ‘rigged’?

Malashri Lal, IIC Quaterly

Bhaskar Roy has displayed the grit to grapple with the most complicated period in Bengali life after Independence – the aftermath of the Naxalite Movement. The tyranny of the Emergency with its draconian laws is just over and there is hope anew. Rarely has one seen such a sincere evocation of the young Bengali milieu – tea, cigarettes, poetry, politics, college union elections, boy-meeting-girl and all that.”


Roy tells an authentic tale. He draws us into a subtext about the Maoist movement that came to be known as the Naxalite revolution, taking its origin in the north Bengal village of Naxalbari on May 23, 1967. On that day as the police combed the area to arrest peasant leaders, one policeman was killed, and the movement of protest spread overnight like wildfire.

Bhaskar Roy’s novel is shot through with piercing reminiscences of this movement in a most poignant way. Instead of recounting directly the gruesome killings carried out in those days, the author turns to poetry which was the very heart-beat of this neo-romantic, though ill-timed, movement… he has succeeded in a surrealistic retelling of the Manasa myth where Behula transports her dead husband on a raft, learning to look death in the face, teaching us to defy its stratagems.

Here we are confronted with an archetypical ballad-cycle which emphasizes the fatedness of a folk, circumscribed by a rather stringent socio-religious system. And yet there prevails an uncompromising urge in its spokeswoman Behula, the ‘bride-widow’, who forces a way through the dark area of doom and destiny. Roy correlates this character to the women who lost their close relatives during the repressive Emergency.

"The woman in your poem reminded me of Behula, why I do not know. Like Behula she was ready to carry the burden of her ill-fated, short-lived love, and like her she was bold enough to talk about her own desire, her own passion… (pg. 120)

This twist in the given thematic continuity imparts to the novel a unique dimension. The reader is immediately reminded of Grusha’s Song for her Beloved in the Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht.

Alokeranjan Dasgupta, Indian Literature

“I read this book on the Cultural Revolution written by an American and I was immediately reminded of the Naxalite movement in West Bengal during the seventies. It surprised me that how one person’s views and politics could affect one generation of people thousands of miles away,” says Roy, whose earlier book The Defeat or Distant Drumbeats was about Mandalisation.

For An Escape into Silence he decided to intertwine an East Bengal legend with the political situation of the 1970’s. The East Bengal legend has it that a newly married bride discovers that her husband has been bitten by a snake. He dies without their marriage being consummated and she travels down the river in the hope of his returning to life.

The story is about Bachchu Sen, a Marxist street-fighter who gets caught between a traditional tolerant society and ruthless politics of indoctrination, a secluded past and quite a disturbing present.

“It was an intensely human era, there was no hypocrisy in what they did. In fact, they gave up everything they had for their belief,” says Roy. He vaguely remembers the period he so extensively researched for the book.

“I know some people from that time, who were part of the Naxalite movement. It’s really sad to see them today. They are such a disillusioned lot, who can’t integrate themselves into the present society.”

A full-time journalist, Roy was not willing to compromise on the content.

“Most publishers I approached wanted something or the other changed. But I stuck to what I really wanted to write about,” he says.

Interview in The Hindustan Times

The ambience of the period in which the story is set is one of fear and uncertainty. The aura of the Naxal movement provides a poignant addition. This is through the memorial plaques of some of its leaders. Bappa’s psyche is moulded when he gazes on the plaques of these leaders killed in encounters.

Srinivasan Subhramanian, The Telegraph

An Escape into Silence is an attempt to recreate the turbulent seventies when Bengal was rocked by the Naxalite movement, and when young men and women fought for what they believed were their ideals… Roy inserts to his credit, some observant details about the city, its steady creep into the outskirts, and its buzz of little magazines.

Uma Mahadevan-Dasgupta, The Book Review

As if to match the complexity of his narrative with the twists and turns in the life of the poet-protagonist, Bhaskar Roy constructs a taut, well-researched plot… The writer also weaves in an account of the dying rivers in the land that stretches from Calcutta to the border town of Bongaon along with myths and legends that local people keep alive through rituals.

Aruti Nayar, The Tribune


Ultimately, ‘reality’ is beyond words, it is the silence after articulation has ceased.

IIC Quarterly