Since childhood, one book grasped my imagination completely. I learnt Bangla comparatively late. Realized what a void there was when I was around 8. Stupid childhood in England! Am so glad my parents decided to come back. Ma gave me Chander Pahar when I was in class 3. Also the year I finally learnt my mother tongue.Hope I did justice both to my language, as well as to the first novel that I read. I have obsessed over it for a long time.Felt Shankar's misery, was scared of the Black Mamba and the horrible desert.Cried when Alvarez died a heroic death.Then realized that he was always meant to die.I was in love with Shankar.Always wondered why his last name was never used.
I always knew that it was one of those books that defy genre, even before I knew what genre meant.I hope that all those who were there today and who have not read the book will.That's what I really want.Not praise.Sometimes I think I will never be an academic.I think I will write and translate.But I need money!Damn.
This paper is catharsis. For two years I have been trying to articulate everything that I said today. Today I felt satisfied. Happy. But I know this just the beginning.I have a plan. I do not know whether it is a bit ambitious, or a bit ludicrous, or what.
I wish to translate Bibhutibhushan, Tarashankar, Manik Bandyopadhyay.Today Tintinda asked me a question pertaining to Rabindranath(his Africa). I think the answer to that is:
1.Rabindranath is an isolated specimen. He was awfully rich to begin with. And they were very very cosmopolitan.
2. He was an international figure thanks to the shitty rendition of his Bengali poetry into a mystic English. God knows what he conveyed to the English speaking world. But he did hop about quite a bit, didn't he? And he established a world centre, at Shantiniketan. Nothing was really out of his reach.Much.
I think Tagore was great, but so were quite a few other Bangalis. If Bibhuti Babu had a good translator he would have won the Nobel. Maybe it's too late for that.But I think Bengalis need to stop obsessing about Tagore and thakurbari and look beyond. The cleverest literary minds need a bit of introspection methinks. Shall I incur the wrath of many at this point? Tell me what you will, but Tagore has become like mishti doi. Ah well.
Yes so he has done it all. I LOVE ROBI THAKUR. Nothing will ever change that. Kshudito Pashan, Gora,Lipika, Balaka,Jibonsmriti,Karna Kunti Sangbad... and Gitobitan. I don't think that without these I would be half as literary as I am today. Literary as in; lover-of-literature. Not academic thingums.
Just that...we take genre too seriously in literature. In vernacular literature, i.e., the only one I know :) I think it's a bit pointless. Here genre is a general consensus; between writer, publisher, and the bhadralok reader. The literature of the 20s, 30s, 40, 50s is very strange. Think Bonophool, Parashuram (both friends of my dadu), Premendra Mitra, Jagadish Gupta, Bibhutibhushan Mukhopadhyay, Saradindu, Narayan Gangopadhyay, Satinath Bhaduri...
These are of course, just some favourite authors. Maane many more famous ones. Many I miss. But whatever.
We English-speaking, new cosmopolitans... how easily we forget those who made that transition before-tried to bridge a gap...and we only remember the one we wish to emulate...the other day Tapandadu, Professor Emeritus at Oxford, Indian Civilization and History, was telling me how after Bangalnama he is flooded with offers to deliver lectures here, there and everywhere. Just like Amartya Sen, he grumbled. Muffasils and Town Hall. What are they looking for?
The next big icon, what else. Bankim, Michael, Tagore...then?then? Ah the polymath Satyajit Ray, winner at Cannes, etc. Shantiniketan link. Amartya Sen.NOBEL!Shantiniketan link. Blech.