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Navigating the Human Psyche: A Review of 'Instruments of Torture'

Title: Instruments of Torture

Author: Aparna Sanyal

Published by HarperCollins India

Genre: Short Stories

Pages: 186

MRP: Rs. 399/-

Thank you @harpercollinsin for a review copy of the book.



"Instruments of Torture" is a book by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal. It is a collection of 8 stories, each named after a medieval torture device¹. The stories delve into the deepest chambers of the human psyche, emotions, desires, and trauma.

The book explores various themes through its stories. For instance, one story features an anguished man being drugged with hormones to 'cure' his dwarfism, while another tells of a forbidden love affair that takes root in a place of worship. The true meaning and impact of every title bubble up to the surface as the connection between the various instruments and their psychological counterparts are laid bare.

The book is a deeply moving narrative that delves into the complexities of human emotions Sanyal’s sensitivity towards the reader’s experience is evident in the thoughtful inclusion of a trigger warning, addressing its themes of mental illness, abuse, and trauma.

The first story titled ‘The Rack’ unfolds through the life of Raghu, an adopted child whose struggle with acceptance and identity is heart-wrenchingly portrayed. The narrative is rich with emotional depth, capturing the essence of longing and the search for belonging. Sanyal’s use of language is evocative and powerful, with vivid descriptions that transport the reader into the characters’ world. The storytelling is both compelling and harrowing, reflecting the skillful craftsmanship of the writer.

The book tackles heavy and complex themes with grace and empathy, leaving a lasting impression on the reader. It challenges one to reflect on the notions of family, love, and the enduring human spirit in the face of adversity. Sanyal’s exploration of beauty, strangeness, and self-perception, hinted at in the opening quotes from Kobayashi Issa, Edgar Allan Poe, and Robert Burns, adds a layer of thematic resonance to the narrative.

In summary, “Instruments of Torture” is a testament to the resilience of the human condition, masterfully capturing the intricate tapestry of life’s darkest and most beautiful moments. It is a must-read for those who appreciate literature that not only tells a story but also touches the soul. Sanyal’s ability to weave a narrative that is as thought-provoking as it is emotionally resonant is commendable, making “Instruments of Torture” a standout addition to contemporary literature.

This book is not just a collection of stories; it’s an experience that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page. It’s a journey through the human psyche, a study of the effects of trauma, and a testament to the power of resilience. It’s a book that demands to be read and deserves to be discussed. It’s a book that will make you think, make you feel, and above all, make you appreciate the strength of the human spirit.

“Instruments of Torture” is a book that will touch your heart, challenge your mind, and leave you with a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. It’s a book that you won’t be able to put down, and one that you won’t soon forget. It’s a book that deserves a place on every reader’s bookshelf.

In conclusion, “Instruments of Torture” is a beautifully written, deeply moving, and thought-provoking book that is well worth your time. Don’t miss it.

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