Posts Tagged ‘Professor Shonku’

I have wanted to read a Satyajit Ray book for a long time. I wanted to start with the Feluda stories. But someone mentioned the Professor Shonku stories, and because I have never heard of Professor Shonku before, I thought I will try his stories first. There are three volumes of Professor Shonku stories available in English translation, and ‘The Diary of a Space Traveller‘ is the first one.


The Diary of a Space Traveller‘ has twelve stories. The first one is the title story. In this story, the narrator’s neighbour comes and gives a diary to him. It looks like some kind of meteorite has crashed nearby and this diary was found in that site. This diary is written by Professor Shonku, in which he writes about his attempts to build a rocket to reach Mars and what happens during that trip. It looks like the Professor hasn’t come back to Earth but his diary somehow has. The narrator then finds more diaries in Professor Shonku’s house which detail his past adventures. These comprise the rest of the stories in the book.

I loved every story in ‘The Diary of a Space Traveller‘. The title story is science fiction and most of it happens in outer space and other planets. There are other stories in the book about dinosaur bones, ghosts, Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, hypnotism, the mysteries of the human brain, robots, intelligent birds, miniature planets and miniature living beings. In these very different stories, Satyajit Ray explores many fascinating mysteries which have haunted the human imagination. The stories feel like classical science fiction / fantasy – the kind of stories which came out in the 19th century and the dawn of the 20th century, that Jules Verne, H.G.Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle used to write, the kind of stories which came out before science fiction writers moved their stories to other planets and galaxies with alien civilizations, which sounded the death knell of classical science fiction. Satyajit Ray’s stories hark back to that innocent era of classical science fiction and I felt nostalgic while reading them. Many of the stories are open ended with no clear cut resolution in the end. It adds to the beauty of the story. The prose flows smoothly, there is enough information to make the reader understand the story, there is the right amount of humour. The translation by Gopa Majumdar is beautiful – I can only imagine how much more beautiful the original Bengali version must be. I loved the main characters – Professor Shonku, our eccentric scientist, his assistant Prahlad, his cat Newton, his neighbour Avinash Babu, who is always taking potshots at the professor’s research. Then there are characters who come only in specific stories, who are all fascinating. The book has an introduction by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, in which she describes how Bengali children loved Professor Shonku’s adventures when they first came out. The book also has an afterword by the translator which makes for interesting reading.

I loved ‘The Diary of a Space Traveller and other stories‘. The stories in it were fascinating, gripping and entertaining. I loved the classical feel of the stories. I can’t wait to read more Professor Shonku adventures.

I have to say one last thing. Bengali friends, I am so jealous of you. I am so jealous that you got to read Satyajit Ray’s stories when you were young. I am so jealous that you got to read them in Bengali. I am happy I discovered them finally, but I wish I had read them when I was young.

Have you read this book or other Professor Shonku adventures? What do you think about them?

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