Rana Bose’s Shaf and the Remington is a stunning accomplishment. Set in the fictional town of Sabzic, in an unspecified country in the Balkans, the book spans the period from the beginning of the Second World War to the end of the Cold War. Written in epistolary style, the story is split into four sections, each told from the respective viewpoint of a given character.
Shaf and the Remington Baraka Books
Shaf and the Remington
A philosopher, physics teacher, and his sister’s “secret” beau, Shaf enters Ben’s life. Ben is both perplexed and fascinated by this sometimes overly eccentric man, who tends to go off on long philosophical tangents, questioning his own views and challenging Ben to do the same during their lessons. Ben comes to admire him almost as much as his Bo, becoming determined to learn his teachings and deepen their relationship. Throughout this, the reverberations of war draw closer, and so too does the tragedy that will befall their family, which will inevitably cause a shift in Ben’s sense of self. Bose’s characters are vivid, distinctly established, and intricately developed, remaining clear in the reader’s mind long after having finished the book.
A departure from the linearity of the first section, the second grants us access into the mind of the ever-elusive Shaf. It takes us through Shaf’s muddled journey from before he met Ben’s father to his time spent tutoring young Ben, his experiences fighting as a partisan in the war, and his travels through Europe and the United States. Though the narrative style is true to the character, at times it is difficult to keep up with. His seemingly nonsensical and incoherent inner monologue causes the reader to be distracted from the story.
The last two sections are the shortest, briefly following Ben as an adult in his search for Shaf, who has been missing for forty years. Bose’s opulent and poetic prose entrances the reader, allowing one to feel present for every meal, stroll along the town’s canal, and diplomatic decision in each era described. He illustrates that even throughout war and atrocious acts of violence, beauty finds ways to remain.
Bose masterfully incorporates history, politics, philosophy, and physics into this gripping novel, transporting the reader to a place where time and space seem to bend and refract. Shaf and the Remington is an allegory of human nature, asking us to question the essence and roots of war and ideology.mRb