Mahasweta Devi’s best-known novel – Hajar Churashir Ma in the original – is a heartbreaking and yet coldly analytical story of a loving mother who is suddenly informed of her grown-up son’s death. Identified only as No. 1084 by the morgue authorities, the young man was killed in one of the many false encounters that the police used in the 1970s in Bengal to eliminate revolutionary Naxals.

A year after his death, she begins to piece together the story of his involvement with the Naxal movement, getting in touch his former comrades and learning the details. The novel offers a unique perspective on the armed political movement that shook Bengal in the 1970s, claiming victims among both the urban youth and the rural peasantry, leaving its impact not just on the political and administrative landscape but also on the families of those who died.

Crisp and incisive in capturing the thought processes of a generation and the turmoil in the cosy construct of the middle-class family, Mother of 1084 is still a truly moving human document. In an interview, Devi said that she wrote it in four days flat, almost as a command performance in response to the requests of urban Naxalites who said she only wrote about tribals but never about them.

Published in Bengali in 1974. Translated into English by Samik Bandyopadhyay, published in 2010.