It’s the mid-to-late 1800s and the British have banished Wajid Ali Shah—the nawab of Awadh in Lucknow—to Calcutta. To the sound of the soulful melody of the sarangi, the mercurial courtesan Laayl-e Aasman is playing a dangerous game of love, loyalty, deception, and betrayal. Bajrangi and Kundan, bound by their love for each other and for Laayl-e, struggle to keep their balance. Ranging across generations and geography, the scale of Laayl-e’s story sweeps the devil, a crime lord, and many other remarkable characters into a heady mix.
Mirror of the Darkest Night is almost an aberration in Mahasweta Devi’s oeuvre. Known for her activism and hard-hitting indictment of social inequalities, she pays close attention to detail in this sparkling novel. It offers a rare glimpse of Devi’s talent for telling the sort of story she normally eschewed—and it’s a cracker of a tale.