‘You want to run off and join the Mukti Bahini, is that what you’re telling me?’ Her face turned grim. ‘I’m not sure. I just want to be contributing something.’
War-torn 1971 Moni, seventeen, is talking to his mother. They have taken refuge on an island at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal, as their people fight to turn East Pakistan into Bangladesh. His father and brother have disappeared. What should Moni do?
Mahmud Rahman’s stories journey from a remote Bengali village in the 1930s, at a time when George VI was King Emperor, to Detroit in the 1980s, where a Bangladeshi ex-soldier tussles with his ghosts while flirting with a singer in a Blues club. Generous and empathetic in its exploration, Rahman’s lambent imagination extends from an interrogation in a small-town police station by the Jamuna river to a romantic encounter in a Dominican laundromat in Rhode Island.
Each of Rahman’s vivid stories says something revealing and memorable about the effects of war, migration and displacement, as new lives play out against altered worlds ‘back home’.
Sensitive, perceptive, and deeply human, killing the Water is a remarkable debut.