The Storm by Arif Anwar is a welcome addition to the fledgling collection of post-colonial literature by Bangladeshi authors writing about their country's war for independence, displacement of their fellow citizens by natural disasters and the immigrant experience. Anwar takes it further, much further, by creating an impressive cast of characters with lives and fortunes that intersect in unexpected ways with Bangladesh's history. From Washington, D.C., to Calcutta to Chittagong and Burma, Anwar journeys through time to unfurl the full breath and strength of the storm that is the literal and figurative center of his ambitious debut novel.
Honufa is a peasant woman; Jamir is her fisherman husband. Shahyrar is a young father desperate to find a way to stay in the U.S. His parents, Rahim and Zahira, flee from Calcutta to Chittagong after partition. Claire is a doctor stationed with the British army in Burma, and Ichiro is her patient, a young Japanese pilot captured after his plane is shot down. Through these seemingly disparate individuals, Anwar brings to life the brutal partition of India, Bangladesh's emergence as an independent nation and the historic storm of 1970 that wiped out more than half a million people.
Anwar's work for the renowned NGOs Unicef and BRAC is the foundation for his keen understanding of war's destructive effect on humanity and the ways in which the experience of war stays with people, affecting subsequent generations, long after it is officially over. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer