|Literature in Bangladesh: Contemporary Bengali Writing
edited by Khan Sarwar Murshid
ISBN 984 05 1318 4 1996 248pp 215x136mm HB Tk.350.00 US$23.00
This volume of essays is a critical survey of the literary scene in the late 1980’s. It takes account of the profound changes in Bangladesh society and the world during the previous three decades, especially, the crucial experience of the Liberation War through which the people of this region attained statehood.
Experiences and upheavals of this kind do affect the form and content of literature and influence creativity and the response to it. Indeed, three generations of writers, critics, and readers were witnesses to the working of successive colonial regimes and of immoral authoritarian postcolonial rule. They had seen subversion of liberal-humanist institutions and values and they joined in a collaborative effort of investigation of the major literary forms and some of their outstanding practitioners.
The findings are expectedly mixed: “poetry has come of age”, guilty, as it often is of being too contemporaneous, that is, dealing with surfaces rather than depths.
Fiction too, compared with the situation of the late 50’s, has made significant advance, in some cases. Drama, in response to the demands of a new society and a vibrant theatre, has produced some excellent work. The number of women writers with individuality is on the increase and several draw notice. The survey recognizes the ‘peaks’ in poetry and fiction but does not neglect the lower reaches of the terrain. In fact, it articulates a large variety of themes and issues relevant to the appreciation of contemporary Bengali writing. Its value, as the introduction claims, “is in its honesty as an expression of the critical perceptions of a particular time.”
The practising writer, the scholar, and the student of South Asian literature and Bangladesh studies should find the book both a judicious review of and a dependable guide to the literature of the period.
Cover design: Ashraful Hassan Arif
Endpapers: Handmade paper produced by SOURCE, Dhaka, Bangladesh.