Commemorative publications on Bengalee authors

Dhaka,  Mon,  25 September 2017
Published : 17 Aug 2017, 19:55:45 | Updated : 17 Aug 2017, 19:56:20

Commemorative publications on Bengalee authors

Shihab Sarkar
Commemorations and tributes in the Bengal region are popularly reserved for political figures. As part of this trend, a number of Bengalee legendary leaders and their contributions are warmly remembered on different occasions, such as the days of their birth and death anniversaries and centenaries. Yet celebrated Bengalee writers also do not remain out of the view of their readers on such occasions.

Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam lived much beyond their mundane confines during their lifetime, with the latter's literary and other activities cut short by illness when he was 43. However, he lived until he reached 77. The two celebrities did not require commemorative publications to pay tributes to them. Tagore lived his life to the fullest; and remained an active poet even three days before his death at 80. Passing their lives as living legends, the two poets after their death did not spark any immediate demand for commemorations through magazines and journals. Being household names and public figures already, the two had led the whole Bengalee nation to finding themselves in a state of mourning. 

Commemorative journals or books in Bangla became a trend in the 1950s, a decade after Tagore's death in 1941. It reached the zenith in 1961, the birth centenary of the poet. Biswabharati in West Bengal published several commemorative anthologies and collections of the poet's works to mark the occasion. Defying resistance of the then Pakistani rulers, admirers of Tagore brought out smaller publications in Dhaka. On the other hand, due to his being the National Poet of Bangladesh, Nazrul was luckier to have scores of official and privately organised books and journals published on him posthumously. 

The modernist writers, who began emerging in the late 1920s on platforms of anti-establishment literary magazines and who announced their break with Tagore's style and content, appeared to have made little impact on their readers immediately after their deaths. The reasons are many. In those days literary magazines would survive on limited circulations owing to smaller numbers of readers enjoying modern or the so-called abstract literature compared to the accessible literary pieces by Tagore or Nazrul. In course of time this readers' indifference proved a misconception. Thanks to the pioneering roles played by Ajit Datta-Buddhadeb Basu's Progoti, Buddhadev's 'Kabita', Dineshranjan Das-Gokul Nag's 'Kollol', etc. --- all launched in the 1920s, modern poetry and short stories did not have to wait longer for their readers. Accordingly, post-Rabindranath poets and post-Sharatchandra novelists and story writers slowly started appearing as role-models to the younger readers and writers. 

Though largely out of the general readers' view and nearly recluse, Jibanananda Das enjoyed a considerably wide readership. By the 1930s he had already emerged as highly prolific and published, with his poems appearing in almost all the major journals of the time. It seems to be an irony that only a handful of little magazines in Kolkata felt the eagerness to publish commemorative issues after the poet's premature tragic death in 1954. However, in the later decades over a dozen magazines published special issues completely dedicated to Jibanananda Das.

In Bangladesh, the first commemorative magazine on jibanananda was published on the occasion of the poet's birth centenary in 1999. It was 'Uttaradhikar', the monthly literary journal published by Bangla Academy.  The issue was edited by the then Director General (DG) of the academy Syed Anwar Hossain with Obaidul Islam as Executive Editor. The content was lavish and rich. It included essays by the country's academics and authors. Dedicated poems by senior and younger poets as well as paintings of 23 artists graced the issue. The 862-page special number remains a valuable one in the country's publication history. 

The tradition of publishing commemorative issues of 'Uttaradhikar', however, goes back to 1974. That year Poet Rafiq Azad edited a special issue on Buddhadeb Basu. Basu, who is considered one of the pioneers of post-Tagore modernism in Bangla poetry, died in 1974. 

'Uttaradhikar' published another special issue on Buddhadeb in 2008, the year of the poet's birth centenary. It was edited by Syed Mohammad Shahed, DG of Bangla Academy, with Dr. Sarkar Amin as Executive Editor. Like the 1974 issue on Basu, it also contained articles and evaluations by the country's noted authors and academics. Reprint of a number of Buddhadeb Basu's essays, short stories and poems has added to the commemorative issue's richness. Besides, the special number also reprinted articles on the poet. Those were written by Rabindranath Tagore, Jibanananda Das, Shamsur Rahman, Shakti Chattopaddhay, Probodhchandra Sen, Abdul Qadir, Sikdar Aminul Haque et al. Buddhadeb Basu, also editor of the poetry magazine` Kabita', wrote generously on Nazrul, Sukanta and Jibanananda. Those were included in the744-page special issue.

Literary monthly 'Kali O Kolom' brought out an exclusive issue on Poet Shamsur Rahman shortly after his death in 2006. Edited by Abul Hasnat, it contained a wonderful collection of essays and write-ups as homage to the widely admired and acclaimed poet. 'Kali O Kolom' also published a well-compiled supplement on Shaheed Quaderi in 2016 after his death. A bunch of unpublished poems by the poet added to the attraction of the issue. 

The commemorative issue on Manik Bandopaddhyay (1908-1956) published by Bangla Academy on the great novelist's birth centenary in 2008, proved a publication with rare features. The 692-page Uttaradhikar issue was edited by Syed Mohammad Shahed, with Dr. Sarkar Amin as Executive Editor. Essays on Manik's works and their in-depth analyses add to the issue's distinction.

Along with the form of journals and magazines, several commemorative books were also published in Dhaka. Among these publications, the ones on Humayun Ahmed and Syed Shamsul Haq deserve special mention. The one on Humayun Ahmed was published in November 2012 after his death on July 19 the same year. The publisher appears to have put in his best of efforts to make the commemorative book an extraordinary one. The 400-page publication contains sixty-five articles on the popular novelist by noted essayists, poets, intellectuals and academics.  The memorial collection has been edited by Anisuzzaman, chairman of the editorial board. The other members are Saleh Chowdhury, Syed Manzoorul Islam and Imdadul Haq Milon. The book was published by Onyoprokash.

Poet, novelist and playwright Syed Shamsul Haq's 80th anniversary of birth was observed in the country amid celebrations on December 27, 2015. Like the literary, stage and movie career he had led from the 1950s to until his death in 2016, Haq's birth anniversary also emerged as a multi-hued event in the Bangladesh literary landscape. The publisher Kathaprokash brought out a 595-page commemorative book to mark the occasion. It was edited by Shamsuzzaman Khan, Zakir Talukdar and Pias Majid. A total of 121 long and short essays, evaluations, tributes, etc., has enriched the book.  Dozens of photographs of various important events and turning-points in Syed Haq's life have added to the book's documentary value. A complete list of all the publications of the author makes the book helpful to researchers.  Haq died on September 27, 2016.

The November 2012 issue of 'Noboprokash' from Jamalpur on Poet Hasan Hafizur Rahman warrants an exclusive place among the country's commemorative magazines. The poet edited the country's first-ever memorial anthology on the 1952 Language Movement. It came out in 1953. Rich tributes comprising essays, evaluations, dedicated poems, etc., make the 2012 journal highly valuable. Contributors include Zillur Rahman Siddiquee, Anisuzzaman, Shamsur Rahman, Mohammad Sultan, Borhanuddin Khan Jahangir, Serajul Islam Chowdhury, et al. It has been edited by Mahbub Bari (Chief Editor) and Ahmad Aziz.

 In spite of his long stay abroad and his death in the USA on August 28 in 2016 at the age of 74, Shaheed Quaderi enjoyed immense popularity among the poetry lovers, especially those young. A commemorative issue on poet, better known as an 'urban poet', has recently been published by the literary magazine 'Shangkhachil'. Rich in content variety and make-up, it is edited by Mahfuz Pathak and Iqbal Mahfuz. Its contributors include revered names like Poet Al Mahmud, Alokranjan Dasgupta, Abdullah Abu Sayeed, Mahmudul Haq et al. There are English-language evaluations by Kaiser Haq, Hasan Ferdous and Rifat Munim. Reprint of Quaderi's poems and prose write-ups adds to the 350-page commemorative journal's richness.  

The voluminous homage to Rafiq Azad by the literary journal 'Kashbon' has carved out an enviably prestigious place among the country's commemorative publications. It was published in February, 2017, one year after the poet's death in March, 2016.   Apart from the excellence in production, the issue contains enormous value for the extensive evaluation of the poet. The 746-page magazine portrays many events from the poet's life through photographs, letters, etc.

Bringing out of special publications on authors is a characteristic trend of modern literature. It makes Bangla literature distinctive it its own way.   

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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