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Bangla literature through ages

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27th-Jun-2014       
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Mohammad Daniul Huq and Aminur Rahman :

(From the previous issue)
In the phase of essay literature of the thirties  those who were noted for writing thematic essays included Suniti Kumar Chatterji (1890-1977), Sushil Kumar De (1890-1968), Rajshekhar Basu, Niharranjan Roy (1903-1981) and Sukumar Sen; in literary criticism, prominent writers were Srikumar Bandyopadhyay (1892-1970), Shashibhusan Dasgupta (1911-1964) and Pramathanath Bishi; in other areas, the prominent writers were Atulchandra Gupta (1884-1961), Annadashankar Roy and Dhurjatiprasad Mukhopadhyay. Buddhadev Bose, Syed Muztaba Ali (1904-1974), Humayun Kabir (1906-1969) and Abu Sayeed Ayyub (1906-1982) were also exceptionally fine essayists.
The most important development in the intellectual history of Muslim Bengal was the establishment in Dhaka of the Muslim Sahitya Samaj in the thirties. The group's principal source of inspiration was Abul Hussain (1896-1938) and its main writer was Kazi Abdul Wadud (1894-1970). The Samaj's mouthpiece was Shikha which proclaimed the idea of free thought.
Among those who paved the way for a new stream of literature in the then East Pakistan and later in independent Bangladesh, Mohammad Najibar Rahman (1860-1923) deserves particular mention. His novel Anwara (1912), which depicts the life of an ideal Muslim family, was read very widely in Muslim homes. Ekramuddin Ahmad (1872-1940) was another powerful Muslim writer of the period. Although he was a critic, novelist and short story writer, he was instrumental in introducing Rabindranath to Muslim society through his book Rabindrapratibha (1926). Roquiah Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932) demonstrated considerable skill in writing fiction, short stories, essays and poems, many of them inspired by her ideals of social and educational reform. Her Oborodhbasini (1928) depicted the plight of women in a Purdah society. In Abdullah (1932) Kazi Imdadul Huq (1882-1926) revealed the effects of western education on traditional Muslim society. Shahadat Hossain (1893-1953) was a devoted and unassuming litterateur and poet, mainly remembered for Rupchhanda (1943). The primary objective of Golam Mostafa (1897-1964) was to introduce Islamic ideas in Bangla literature. Apart from writing poetry, he also wrote Vixwanabi (1942), a fine biography of the Prophet of Islam.
Some other well-known writers of this phase include Mohammad Akram Khan, Dr Muhammad Shahidullah (1885-1969), Dr Muhammad Lutfar Rahman (1889-1936), S Wazed Ali (1890-1951), Ibrahim Khan (1894-1978), Nurunessa khatun vidyavinodini (1894-1975), Sheikh Muhammad Idris Ali (1895-1945), Akbaruddin (1895-1979), Mohammad Barkatullah (1898-1974), Abul Kalam Shamsuddin (1897-1978), Qazi Motahar Hossain, Abul Mansur Ahmed (1898-1979), Benajir Ahmed (1903-1983), Abul Fazal (1903-1983), Motaher Hossain Chowdhury (1903-1956), Muhammad Mansuruddin (1904-1987), Abdul Quadir (1906-1984), Bande Ali Mia (1906-1979), Mahmuda Khatun Siddiqua (1906-1977), Habibullah Bahar Choudhury (1906-1966), Mahbub-ul Alam (1906-1982), Dr Muhammad Enamul Huq, Sufi Motahar Hosen (1907-1975), Begum Sufia Kamal (1911-1999) and Raushan Yazdani (1917-1967).
India's independence movement and the movement for Pakistan influenced the Bangla-speaking people in two different ways. Despite their allegiance to their common heritage and customs, the poets and litterateurs of this phase, both old and new, were inspired to work for the changed society and life of the new states of India and Pakistan. The political partition of Bengal was thus accompanied by the partition of its literature as well.
The literature of Bangladesh may be divided into three phases: first phase 1947-1957, second phase 1958-1970 and third phase from 1971 onward.
First phase (1947-57) extended from pre-partition days to the pre-Ayub period. East Bengal faced a host of problems, such as an influx of refugees, economic distress and communal disturbances, as well as the Pakistani regime's hostile attitude to East Bengal and Bangla. Soon after the creation of Pakistan, the people of the eastern region realised the absurdity of a state based on religion. The decision to make Urdu the sole state language of the country caused Bengalis to protest, culminating in the Language Movement of 1952. This awareness of their linguistic rights laid the foundation for the first phase of Bangla literature.
The fiction produced in Bangladesh was in fact a continuation of the fiction produced by the Muslim writers of undivided Bengal. Prominent among them were Muhammad Najibur Rahman, Korban Ali, Sheikh Idris Ali, Kazi Imdadul Huq, Kazi Abdul Wadud, Akbaruddin (1895-1978), Abul Fazal and Humayun Kabir. They founded the base for fiction in Bangladesh by assimilating the thought process of the Bengali Muslim society during the first two decades of the 20th century.
Most of the novels of the first phase were written in the backdrop of rural Bangladesh, among them Lalsalu (1948) by Syed Waliullah (1922-1971), Char-Bhanga Char (1951) by Kazi Afsaruddin (1921-1975), Kashboner Konya (1954) and Alamnagarer Upakatha (1954) by Shamsuddin Abul Kalam (1926-1997), Chandradviper Upakhyan (1952) by Abdul Gaffar Choudhury (b 1934), Surya-Dighal Bari (1955) by Abu Ishaque (b 1926), and Sarder Jayenuddin's Adiganta. Some writers chose life of the middle class and its crisis as their theme. Among this class of novels Abul Fazal's Jiban Pather Jatri (1948) and Ranga Prabhat (1957) are worth mentioning.
Many of the Muslim writers of pre-partition days concentrated on producing novels and very few wrote short stories. But prominent among those who were active in the genre after 1947 include Abul Fazal, Abu Rushd, Syed Waliullah, Abul Mansur Ahmed, Shamsuddin Abul Kalam and Shawkat Osman (1917-1998). The new genre of short stories grew around the Muslim middle class that sprang up following partition SSS; most stories used the social life of this class as their theme. Thus the short stories of Bangladesh reflected social reality and how the onslaught of urban life was eroding the quietude of rural life. Some books of short stories of this phase were Shawkat Osman's Pijranpol (1950), Junu Apa O Anyanya Galpa (1952) and Sabek Kahini (1953), Shamsuddin Abul Kalam's Onek Diner Asha (1952), Path Jana Nei (1953) and Dheu (1953), Shahed ali's Jibrailer Dana (1953), and Alauddin Al-Azad's Jege Achhi, Dhan Kanya (1951) and Mrigonabhi (1955).
The poets of East Bengal had been attempting since pre-partition days to create poetry of their own separate from the Kolkata-centred stream. After partition, the poets felt even more encouraged to write romantic poems on the themes of early Islamic history as well as on Pakistani nationalism. Those who belonged to this trend included Farrukh Ahmad (1918-1974), Ahsan Habib (1918-1983), Abul Husain (b 1921), Golam Quddus and Syed Ali Ahsan (b 1922).
Farrukh Ahmad was the most prominent poet of this trend. He created a world of poetry by using religious sentiments. His Sat Sagarer Majhi (1944) and Sirajam Munira (1952) are two books of poems worth mentioning. Two other equally important books on similar themes are Golam Mostafa's Bani Adam (1958) and Talim Husain's Dishari (1956). Other well-known poets of the time were Syed Ali Ahsan, Mufakkharul Islam, Sadruddin and Sufi Zulfiqar Haider.
However, there were other poets who tried to write poetry on secular and humanistic themes. Among these poets were Ashraf Siddiqui, with Biskanya (1955), Sat Bhai Champa (1955) and Uttar Akasher Tara (1958), Mazharul Islam with Matir Fasal (1955), Matiul Islam with Saptakanya (1957) and Begum Sufia Kamal with Man O Jiban (1957).
This humanistic trend is also reflected in  Natun Kavita (1950), edited by Ashraf Siddiqui and Abdur Rashid Khan. Among poets who contributed to this edition were Shamsur Rahman, Hasan Hafizur Rahman, Alauddin Al-Azad and Borhanuddin Khan Jahangir.
Another poetic trend was inspired by the themes of instability in modern society, fatigue, rebellion and pangs of deprivation. The poets of this stream include Ahsan Habib and Abul Husain. Ahsan Habib's Ratrixes (1944) contained poems typical of his timidity and modesty. Abul Husain's Naba Basanta (1942), though published before partition, belongs to this trend.
The events of 21 February 1952 had a far-reaching effect on poetry as they did on the national life of this country. In 1953 Hasan Hafizur Rahman published an anthology of poems under the title of Ekushey February.
Along with Natun Kavita, this anthology played a significant role in shaping the secular and humanistic character of Bangla poetry.
(to be continued)

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