Getting Acquainted with New Generation Bengali Writers
In Bangladesh, the market for new books and introduction of new writers both depend on the Ekushey Fair, the one-month book fair held in February. Yet, in all fairness, the focus of book lovers mostly hover around established authors while new entrants remain in the sidelines. Fortunately, institutions like HSBC and the renowned literary magazine, Kali O Kolom has come forward to promote and inspire young writers through their yearly arrangement of the Young Poet and Writer's Award. This year the award has been conferred in three categories, namely poetry, prose (fiction) and prose (non-fiction).
“Raatrir ondho chokh khule Bagharu likhe rekhecche alor naam, Othocho Bagharu jane na ki kore likhte hoy.” (Bagharu has opened the blind eye of night to write the name of light. However, Bagharu does not know how to write). Such are the poetic expressions of Ahmed Munir. His first poetry publication “Ami O Bagharu”, receiving the award for 2009, is a true representation of modern poetry. In “Ami O Bagharu" the poet has transformed the monologue of Bagharu, a lone character from Debesh Rai's novel Teesta Parer Britantto, into a dialogue between himself and the reader. With Bagharu, the reader roams freely in the wilderness of northern Bengal, defying all political and geographical boundaries. Through Bagharu, the poet tries to identify himself in his surroundings, looking for dreams in the daily hassle of life. Most of the thirty-six poems in the book are written in free verse, of which 10 are in prose poetry form. The poet's description of nature and its interaction with the human soul in beautifully knitted words take the reader into a dreamy world. Similarly, “Rangamatiguccha” the last poem in the book, provides a visual depiction of the hills of Chittagong and the life of the hilly people. Munir is currently working as the assistant feature editor of the Daily Suprobhat Bangladesh. According to Munir, who is from Chittagong, literature and cultural activities in Bangladesh are very much Dhaka-centric. He expresses his gratitude and praises Kali O Kolom and HSBC's endeavour to bring out young creative works from all parts of the country. To Munir, the publication industry in Bangladesh is not commercial enough for a young writer to sustain only through writing. "Financial constraints prevent writers of our country from putting in full time and effort in their work. Ironically, it is the difficulties around us that help us to reach out to our readers,” says Munir. Besides poetry, he regularly writes short stories for different magazines and has plans to write fiction.
Ahmed Mustafa Kamal received the award in the prose (fiction) category for his book "Ondho Jadukor". It is his eighth novel where he has experimented not only with the language and the story but also with the form of the fiction. The story revolves around the protagonist, Kaiser Ahmed Aditya, a young author suffering from writer's block due to the demands of his middle-class surroundings. He is marooned in the philosophy of life, finding it difficult to relate to his near and dear ones. The novel searches for the answers to some evident but contradictory questions of life. It is this search that has given Kamal's work its uniqueness. Kamal also tries to break the demarcation that seems to exist between different areas of literature like fiction and essays, by combing the story with a number of essays on different subjects and eminent figures like life, relationships, Gautam Buddha, Akhtaruzzaman Iliyas and Mahmudul Haque. Interestingly, this exceptional style has received wide acceptance from the readers. Yet, Kamal has no plan to continue with this approach as he incessantly challenges himself with new and different forms of writing. Kamal had set foot in the world of literature back in his school days, heavily inspired by his teacher Babu Horipodo Sutrodhar. Kamal's first book Ditiyo Manush was published in 1998 from Dibbo Prokash, establishing him in the terrain of Bengali novelist. To Kamal, an award not only motivates the writer but also promotes his book. He says, "In a country like Bangladesh it is difficult for a writer to get his book published and distributed. An award definitely brings in that necessary attention from the readers." Kamal is currently teaching at Independent University, Dhaka.
Ekkaturer Gonohotya: Rajdhani theke Biyanibazar, a research work on the martyrs of Biyanibazar, Sylhet received the award under the category of prose (non-fiction). Azizul Parvez, senior reporter of Kaler Kantho, carried out this research in his hometown Biyanibazar. From his belief that regional history forms the basis of the overall national history of the country, Parvez engaged himself in documenting the political history of his locality. Previously, Freedom Fighter journalist Abdul Matin Choudhury and Liberation War researcher Tajul Mohammad prepared similar lists but both the lists are said to have some misinformation. A representative of the post-war generation, Parvez carried out the research from an objective point of view, collecting data at the field level by going to each and every household in the locality.
The book provides an account of all the martyrs of the Liberation War, who belong to Biyanibazar, Sylhet by birth. As a result the genocide that took place in Dhaka, the capital and elsewhere in the country becomes relevant to the research topic. The nine chapters of the book present demographical data of the victims of the genocide in Biyanibazar as well as the number and location of killing fields in that area. A union-wise list of martyrs along with description and reason of their deaths cover a major part of the book. Parvez has also added names of many freedom fighters previously omitted. He believes that it is our responsibility to document the history of our respective locality, for we are losing our valuable history and its witnesses to time. He has documented data on 128 martyrs; out of them 30 martyrs never received any recognition. Reflecting on his experience of collecting data, Parvez says, "Even after so many years the pain of those horrible moments haunt the victims' families. Their looks of despair make me feel helpless." Parvez believes that such a work is very contemporary and would provide important evidence for the trial of the war criminals. His ultimate aim is to document the history of the political struggle of the last 100 years of Biyanibazar, Sylhet.
“Ami O Bagharu”, “Ondho Jadukor”, and “Ekkaturer Gonohotya: Rajdhani theke Biyanibazar” are books that deal with different fields of literature, yet all three represent contemporary thoughts and modern style of expression be it hard facts or fiction. These books will definitely provide readers with a feel of the excellent works that aspiring writers are adding to Bengali literature.
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