English title states the text is a novel but the original Bangla title was simply Lajja.
Shame is narrated in sequential days, and tells the story of a Hindu family in Bangladesh, and how they are affected by religious and social conflict.
Taslima Nasrin wrote the text in only a few days, in response to anti-Hindu riots that followed the destruction of a (Muslim) mosque.
However, in spite of how quickly it may have been written, there are structural, stylistic, and sthetic flaws which detract from the impact of the work.
Lists: one of the most depreciating aspects of Nasrins text is her extensive use of lists. She goes on at great length to comprehensively itemize the violence and destruction suffered throughout the conflict.
These lists are distracting from the narrative story, and the interruptions lend themselves to an unfortunate sense of apathy in the reader.
Even more unfortunate is that this apathy is reinforced by several other structural aspects of the text.
In addition to her seemingly endless lists, Nasrin also tends to repeat her main themes ad infinitum. This repetition dehumanizes her story and the situation, and tends to impair our empathy. Her idea of communalism/ fundamentalism vs non-communalism/ secularism is restated continually. Static and repetitive behaviors in characters further alienates the reader, particularly the aggravating stagnancy of Suranjan. Nasrin also quotes from particular laws, such as the Enemy Property Act.
The novel tracks the (mostly atheist) Hindu Dutta family throughout thirteen days of the destruction of Babri Masjids repercussions in Bangladesh. The action of the novel in the first few days is limited to the son, Suranjan, wandering the city and conversing with various Muslims and Hindus, which allows Nasrin to put forth various points of view typically associated with both sides of the conflict and detail the destruction wrought on the Hindu community. In Day Six, Maya, the daughter, is abducted by a band of Muslim youths, and the rest of the novel is keenly emotional and split between the father and mother lamenting what has occurred as Suranjan desperately searching for her. In the end, Maya does not return, and it is alluded to that she has been seen, drowned, floating in the river. What remains of the Dutta family, after many years of refusing to abandon Bangladesh and move to India, which has a majority Hindu population versus Bangladeshs Hindu minority population, as many of their family and friends have, finally concede that doing so is an action necessary to protect themselves.
The portrayal and reinforcement of gender roles is also alienating to the Western reader. The mother and sister are completely docile and subservient, showing admirable qualities perhaps only when directed to do so by men.
Nasrin describes herself as a physician, writer, radical feminist, human rights activist, and secular humanist, but does not suggest any solutions or means of social change for the improvement of this situation.
Its hard not to see the similarities between Taslima Nasrin and Salman Rushie. Both are known for the scandals and controversy they incited, both were forced into political exile/hiding, and there have been fatwa proclaimed on both. In fact, Rushie also wrote a novel titled Shame, which was published in 1983, ten years before Nasrin. Whether or not Nasrin is intentionally riding the success of Rushies coattails is uncertain, but she has probably benefited from the notoriety of both of their scandals.
While the Islamic fundamentalist parties demanded Nasrin's execution, the secular, progressive, and modernist intellectuals and writers were equally dismissive of her writings. Without demanding her death, they variously described Nasrin as immature, rather repulsive, politically naive, obsessed with sex, and an antimale extremist. - Shamsul Alam
communalism Main Entry: communalism Pronunciation: \-n-,li-zm\ Function: noun Date: 1871 1 :social organization on a communal basis 2 :loyalty to a sociopolitical grouping based on religious or ethnic affiliation secularism Main Entry: secularism Pronunciation: \se-ky-l-,ri-zm\ Function: noun Date: 1851 :indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations
Nasrins website details her anti-religious beliefs very clearly; a skim of her posted articles reveals titles such as Beware of Dogma, This Only Proves Religion is the Best Way to Fool the Poor and Briser les chanes de la religion. It is made evident that her views on religion directly influence her views on womens rights; from Briser les chanes de la religion:Mais aucune religion ne respecte les femmes et ne leur reconnat le statut dtre humain.  en Asie, en Afrique, en Amrique latine, les femmes sont tellement opprimes socialement, conomiquement, politiquement, que leur libration sera impossible sans une transformation radicale des structures de la socit et de ltat, ni sans rompre les chanes de la religion. She describes this attitude as a staunch stance of secularism. Secularism, or militant atheism? What separates the two? Has Nasrin crossed that line?
Throughout the text, Nasrin unfailingly pairs communalism with fundamentalism and non-communalism with secularism. It is evident that, in her mind, they are either synonymous, or very intimately, causally related -- logical necessities. This is problematic by virtue of how consistent it is. One gets the sense that Nasrin would like to attack religious fundamentalism, and then separately attack the spirit of communalism that feeds off the us-them dynamic proposed by fundamentalism, but instead she attacks fundamentalism-communalism as one entity. In reality, communalism was present within the Muslim and Hindu communities, but was also very present in the actions of the Bangladeshi government, to deny that anything was remiss in the country -- clinging to ideas of communal harmony, a term she uses often. Nasrins target is ill-defined. Is religion always communalist? Is secularism never communalist? Nasrins politics are unapologetically left. Leftist politics, elevated as the only thing that can correct religious fundamentalism, are historically both very secular and VERY communalist.
Nasrin has a very strong appreciation of an idealized West that may well only exist in her mind. First, though she mentions it in her book on several occasions, the condemnation of the destruction of the Babri Masjid by the West, especially through news outlets like CNN helped fanned flames of hate and, consequently, destruction. More importantly, she equates the West with the concept of perfected secularism, and consequently perfected womens rights. From the website:Until a society is not based on religion and women are considered equal to men before the law, I do not think that politics will advance the cause of women. In Western countries, women are educated, they are treated equally, they have access to jobs. In these conditions, their participation in politics has a meaning. (Article in the UNESCO Courier, June 2000)Secular West? Really? How committed to that idea are we?
'Humankind is facing an uncertain future. The probability of new kinds of rivalry and conflict looms large. In particular, the conflict is between two different ideas, secularism and fundamentalism. I don't agree with those who think the conflict is between two religions, namely Christianity and Islam, or Judaism and Islam. After all there are fundamentalists in every religious community. I don't agree with those people who think that the crusades of the Middle Ages are going to be repeated soon. Nor do I think that this is a conflict between the East and the West. To me, this conflict is basically between modern, rational, logical thinking and irrational, blind faith. To me, this is a conflict between modernity and anti-modernism. While some strive to go forward, others strive to go backward. It is a conflict between the future and the past, between innovation and tradition, between those who value freedom and those who do not.'
 he remembered their neighbors suggestion to his wife about changing their identity with Muslim-sounding names like Fatima or Akhtar. Sudhamoy thought his Hindu name was sure to spell disaster at this moment. Besides forcing his own name into oblivion, he did the same to his father Sukumar Dutta and grandfather Jyyotirmay Duttas names. He was startled by his own voice when he revealed his name as Sirajuddin Hussain. (Nasrin, 27)
For seven long months he continued his existence with his identity as Abdus Salam [...] passing Suranjan off as Saber and suffering the indignity of his wife Kironmoyee being known as Fatima by the people around. This pain of calling Kironmoyee Fatima was much more excruciating than the sufferings caused by the still unhealed fractures in his chest. (Nasrin, 63) Maya had to face awkward situations when Paruls visiting relatives asked her name. She replied, Maya. Whats your full name? the questioner insisted. Intervening before she could say anything, Parul said, Her name is Sakia Sultana. Maya had been startled at the dropping of a Muslim name. [...] The point was driven home. But Maya felt the agony of humiliation. Was it wrong to offer shelter to the Hindus? [...] Why should Hindus be forced to seek protection outside their homes? (Nasrin, 140)
He [Suranjan] never offered prayers in his life, nor did he ever visit a temple ... And against this same Suranjan accusing fingers were raised, pointing to his Hindu identity. (Nasrin, 88) What did Sudhamoy gain, or, for that matter, Suranjan himself by not observing any religious rites and treating the Muslims as brothers and friends for so long? Af