Hellfire – Leesa Gazi


Translated from the Bengali by Shabnam Nadiya

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‘With the pace of a thriller and the unforgettable characters of Greek tragedy, this keenly observed story of a family under the rule of a terrifying matriarch is one of the most unusual, addictive and captivating novels I’ve read in a very long time’ ―Tahmima Anam, author of A Golden Age and The Good Muslim

The holy Prophet received his revelations from the Creator at forty. Which meant that even in the eyes of Allah, ‘forty’ held some special meaning. Something special happened at forty, something special was going to happen.

For the sisters Lovely and Beauty, home is a cage. Their mother Farida Khanam never lets them out of her hawk-eyed gaze.

Leesa Gazi’s Hellfire opens with Lovely’s first ever solo expedition to Gausia Market on her fortieth birthday. There will be many firsts for her today, but she mustn’t forget the curfew Farida Khanam has ordained. As Lovely roams the streets of Dhaka, her mother’s carefully constructed world begins to unravel. The twisted but working arrangements of a fragile household begin to assume a macabre quality as the day progresses.

Told in stark, taut prose, this grisly tale of a family born of a dark secret is one of the most scintillating debuts in contemporary Bengali literature.

About the Author

Leesa Gazi is a British-Bangladeshi writer, actor, scriptwriter and filmmaker. She’s also the joint artistic director of a London based arts company, Komola Collective. She was the scriptwriter and performer on Six Seasons and A Golden Age at the Southbank Centre, London. Gazi’s recent play Aleya Twist is a Bengali adaptation of the British classic Oliver Twist. It has reimagined Oliver Twist as a young girl. Gazi also wrote, directed and produced several CVE (Counter Violence Extremism) short films for a UK-based Counter-Extremism think tank in 2017 and 2019. Gazi was the concept-developer, co-writer and performer on Birangona: Women of War, nominated for The Offies 2014, which she later developed into the documentary film called Rising Silence, on the lives of rape survivors in the aftermath of the Liberation War of Bangladesh. The film won the Best Documentary Award 2019 at the Dhaka International Film Festival, the 2019 Moondance Winner in the feature documentary category (USA), the Asian Media Award for Best Investigation 2019 (UK), the Award Of Merit 2020 by the Accolade Competition (USA), the Best Documentary Feature and Best Message at the 2020 Top Indie Film Awards (Japan) and the Best Feature—Foreign 2020 at the Queen Palm International Film Festival (USA).

Shabnam Nadiya is a California-based Bangladeshi writer and translator. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is the recipient of the Schulze Fellowship (2013) at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop; the Steinbeck Fellowship at San Jose State University (2019) for her novel- in-progress Unwanted; and a PEN/Heim Translation Grant (2020) for her translated manuscript of Bangladeshi writer Mashiul Alam’s short fiction. Her translation of Mashiul Alam’s story, ‘Milk’, won the 2019 Himal Southasian Short Story Contest.

Nadiya’s published translations include Moinul Ahsan Saber’s novel The Mercenary (Bengal Lights Books, 2016; Seagull Books, 2018) and Shaheen Akhtar’s novel Beloved Rongomala (Bengal Lights Books, 2018).The manuscript of this translation of Leesa Gazi’s debut novel Hellfire was shortlisted for the Käpylä Translation Prize.