September 5, 2010

Penned by prolific reader and regular guest columnist NAFIS HASAN, Dissecting Contemporary Bangla Literature (DCBL) reviews and informs us on which recent Bangla books are worth our while….and which ones don’t quite make the mark.

DCBL appears on creativeBangladesh on alternate months. Nafis Hasan writes and delivers his verdicts from an eastern corner of Pennsylvania.

– Labiba / creativeBangladesh


Given that the month of August holds a special significance in the history of newly independent Bangladesh – the death of the Father of the nation Sheikh Mujib, and also more recently, the death of the famous poet Shamsur Rahman, and co-incidentally I had just read two really awesome books on the liberation war, I thought it would be perfect to do my reviews this time on these two books. So without further ado, let me move on to the reviews.

“Taalash” by Shahin Akhter is very different than most other real life accounts of the liberation war. It is by no means for the weak-hearted and romantic minded for mainly 3 reasons:1. It does not talk about the glory of liberation 

2. It depicts the most cruel and harsh pictures of the war, especially from the perspective of women3. It is all REAL 

The book revolves around a journalist / social worker’s search for the truth about the post-war lives of the female survivors and victims of abuse by Pakistani soldiers. The story is mainly told by a certain Mariam aka “Mary”, a small-town girl who came to the capital for higher education along with her gullible, innocent brother, and by Mukti, the social worker in search of the forgotten lives of the “Birangonas” of 71.The story progresses from pre-war period to post-war era to a newly independent Bangladesh when Sheikh Mujib was still alive to even beyond that. Through riveting emotions and powerful, but simple words, the author erases the line between fiction and reality as she depicts the destitute state of the “Birangonas”, ones who were once hailed as his mother by the Bangabandhu.  

The pages of this book are filled with vehement accusations, despair, defeat, and finally coming to a mystical conclusion making the reader acquainted with the ugliest face of war. The fact that the glory of war does not faze these defeated women, some who even grew to love their incarcerators out of desperation, is evident because as Mary puts it, “maybe we were better off in captivity as some officer’s object of lust and false love rather than being the object of humiliation by the independent society of Bangladesh”.The same words are echoed by a certain interviewed freedom fighter who stated that he could not bear to even look at these captive women once they freed them – forgetting how they were chanting their mantras of saving all their mothers and sisters from captivity. The author lashes out at this continued injustice, even years after the war, when the certificate of a “Birangona” became a license for prostitution, either in the park or in someone’s bed under the pretense of a marriage. All this and more as these women fight tooth and nail for establishing their place in society and to get recognized for bearing the ugliest pain of this land, this country that the Pakistani army inflicted.

This book will bring out the ugliest of the 1971 war, especially not only the highly publicized notorious image of the Pakistani army and the Rajakars, but also those of the freedom fighters, bringing everybody down to the same level of human emotions – be it Pakistani soldier, Rajakar sycophant or a glorified Freedom fighter. 

About the author – SHAHIN AKHTER fights diligently for the rights of women through the organization Ain o Shalish Kendro (ASK) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has previously tried her hand in writing through her journalism and documentaries, but this is the first time she has tried to write a fiction based on real facts.

Caution – This book is not for the weak-hearted or the hapless romantics.


Although Nirmolendu Gunn is mainly known for his poetry, especially the ones he wrote on his cellphone through texting and claimed them to be “Muthofoner Kabbo”, his skills as a prose writer are on the same par as his poetry skills. And this is very evident in his memoir of the 1971 war “Attokotha” where he blends in personal experience, poetry, ancedotes, publications and various other sources to depict the picture of the liberation war through the eyes of the one who fought with the pen rather than the sword.

The book is doubtlessly one of the best examples of how mellifluous and beautiful Bengali is, and the words juxtapose perfectly with each other without diminishing the effect of the other. In this book, he talks about his experience through the war, how he travelled for six months from Dhaka to his village in Netrokona during the war, his near-death experience and a poetic revelation even in the moment when he was expecting Death to come knock on his door, how his friend saved him from being incinerated in his workplace as he was about to go to work his shift on the night of 25th March.  

The book is filled with powerful emotions, not only because of the amazing vocabulary skills of Gunn, but also because of the experiences and the fact that they are all true and real. The fine mesh of poetry and prose presented in this book is bound to move any reader, and the little sprinkle of humor characteristic of Gunn makes this a bittersweet read with both tears of grief and joy.  

Nothing much can be said about Gunn himself, except his trademark beard and his quirky humor and absolutely astounding poetry that he writes. This book is definitely a must-read for all ages starting from 14. Just a note, this book was first published as a series in the monthly magazine called “2000” before compilation and publication as a book. 

That would be all for this month folks! Any comments or questions or concerns are most welcome!


illustration: Usa Seraj
art director / graphic design & layout: Labiba Ali for creativeBangladesh


One Response to “”

  1. amin Says:

    excllent ……….unique…………i congratulate u………best wishes…………wid creative …..!hope to c ur work again!

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