Culture & Society

Foreword To Bangladesh: A Literary Journey through 50 Short Stories

Writer Rifat Munim writes about growing up in Bangladesh and the evolution of reading and literary traditions in the country. He writes about the translations of Western writers, Indian and Bangladeshi fiction writers, and how he explored not just individual authors but also tried to understand how literary tendencies changed or grew over the span of a single era, or from one era to another.

Foreword To Bangladesh: A Literary Journey through 50 Short Stories
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Before satellite television and the Internet invaded our lives—what we had growing up in the 1980s was a national television channel with weekly broadcast of cartoons, movies and drama series. Sports and gossips and exaggerated accounts of violent fights, therefore, kept us occupied for the better part of the day. The gossips were about senior male students dating or eloping with senior female students while the exaggerated accounts were about suspenseful tales of violent attacks and counter-attacks between rising gang leaders. The occasional sparks of the television channel and the other activities entertained us, but what truly gave a shape to our lives—either at some imaginative or subterranean level—was a vast range of stories deriving, as if, from a perennial cascade that never dries up. 

Looking back on my childhood, I am surprised to realise that the stories to which I had been exposed as a child were the richest. Depending on whom I’d spend time with, the stories varied. If it was my Chachi who was not college-educated and who had spent most of her life in the village, before putting me to sleep, she’d numb my senses with stories of a ghost with its head dangling from the neck. If it was my cousin who’d babysit me while my mother was at work, she’d regale me with the stories of ‘Dalim Kumar’, ‘Patal Konya Monimala’ and many such orally preserved tales and legends, put together in a collection entitled Thakurmar Jhuli by Dakkhinaranjan Mitra Majumdar in 1907. 

My sources of stories only increased as I enrolled at the primary level of a school. We had this female teacher whom we called Sadhona Madam. She wore simple georgette saris, a red and round bindi in the middle of her forehead, and her vermillion mark gleamed red and looked like a narrow tributary flowing upwards till the crown of her head, and her short and slim build belied her sharp voice. In one of her classes when there were no lessons to be taught, some of us made an impassioned plea for a storytelling session. She asked us back what if the story was too long to be finished in one class. As we reassured her that she could tell her story in parts over a series of classes, she started narrating Valmiki’s Ramayana, fitting it into her own distinct narrative, marked with rhythms and inflections which rose and fell in perfect sync with varying degrees of emotional intensities ingrained in the climactic moments in the storyline. Later, I came across many abridged versions of Ramayana and read quite a few of them, including Upendrakishore Ray’s retelling in verse for children. But the retelling that has rather indelibly etched itself on my mind is Sadhana Madam’s.

As we moved up to high school, everything seemed to be changing. Boys started talking either about their physical changes that I myself had been going through or about girls in a different way. The textbooks and the sports changed, and so did the stories. This marked the end of an era—a break with my childhood stories. In spite of myself, I tried to cope with a new world which was not devoid of imagination but where the rules were different. Generally speaking, it was a loss of innocence, as poets or psychoanalysts would say. But for me, as it was for many others, it was a colossal loss of the world which till then was as infinite as the ever-expanding universe, which had no boundaries and was full of endless possibilities. The wings with which horses flew faster than light were clipped while the djinns and ghosts and spirits and monsters seemed to lose their amazing power. With all those giant pythons and swarms of cobras vanishing under the weight of the real world, the forest, previously veiled in mist and magic and hence evoking fear, lost its enchanting aura.

The desire for boundless imagination sought gratification in stories that gave me a thrilling sensation, having hooked me in, as if I could be pulled away from the book only when the story reached the end. What made this transition possible was my introduction to a number of detective series: Satyajit Ray’s Feluda series, Sharodindu Bandyopadhyay’s Byomkesh series, Rakib Hasan’s Tin Goyenda series and Kazi Anwar Hossain’s Masud Rana series; or to Muhammad Zafar Iqbal’s young adult novels such as Dipu Number Two and Dustu Chheler Dal. 

So the vast reservoir of Bengali fiction that lacked thrilling or adventurous elements remained elusive to me. By then I had grown out of the desire for ghost stories or fairy tales but was too fixated on thrillers and detective stories. I was also becoming slightly interested in pulp fiction, especially those paperbacks churned out by Sheba Prakashani, that had some elements of romance. It was around this time that I became an active member of a left-leaning student organisation. So I was handed, as a rule, a Bengali translation of Maxim Gorky’s Mother. I stopped reading part way through. Inspired by left-leaning mentors, who were into ‘serious stuff’, I started reading the novels by Rabindranath Tagore, Manik Bandyopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay and Bibhutibhushon Bandyopadhyay—these four jointly gave the strongest foundation to modern Bengali fiction—but the result was more or less the same. I could only finish Tagore’s Sesher Kobita, which, in addition to being an occasionally scathing look at the English-educated, higher-middle class Bengalis, was a wonderful love story in which Amit and Labanya—the protagonists—decide not to marry each other to keep their love ever young and alive, and untainted by daily mundanities. 

A year before my Secondary School Certificate exams, I received a copy of Rabindranath Tagore’s Galpaguchcha (Short Story Collection). Reading Tagore’s stories was like diving into an enchanting world which is remarkable as much for its vastness as for its diversity and seamless imagination. There were supernatural elements, fairy-tale like dimensions, even ghosts; there were comic elements and sarcasm; there were illuminating looks into characters’ psychologies, among other marks of European modernism; most remarkably, unlike his novels, most of his stories, infused as they are with formidable descriptions of nature, are written in non-European storytelling traditions. This was the first time I had experienced reading stories which were crafted in an exceedingly literary language yet which enhanced suspense.

After Tagore, not only the door to European and North American authors opened but also Bibhutibhushon’s flowing narratives with no sign of European modernism, or the unique combination of Marxist and modernist inclinations in Manik Bandyopadhyay’s fiction, or the effortless way with which Tarashankar coalesced both Bibhutibhushon and Manik to create something new—everything made sense. The more I read the more I was convinced that literature is inextricably linked to culture, politics and history all right, but the key to good fiction lies in the power of storytelling for which there are no hard and fast rules. 

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I have never stopped reading Indian Bengali writers. But as I became more steeped in the cultural and political history of my own country, both as a writer and an activist, naturally I ended up exploring more of Bangladeshi writers. I explored individual authors but I also tried to understand how literary tendencies changed or grew over the span of a single era, or from one era to another. Like most kids in my generation, I too was hung up on abridged translations of European and North American classics, marketed to us as the gems of ‘World Literature’—the questionable category that excludes Asian, Latin American and African authors. It was pretty common for readers from my generation as well as those who came before mine to look up to European fiction but express suspicion about the worth of Bengali fiction. As I delved deeper into more and more stories, I discovered that Bangladeshi fiction is very rich but Bangladeshi short fiction is even richer. Bangladeshi short fiction has assumed a life of its own. In many decades, it has grown separately from other creative genres, as aptly observed by Prasanta Mridha in his essay collection, Galper Khonje (In Search of Stories). In my view, in Bangladesh short fiction always leads the way when it is time to shake off the old norms, and embrace and create new ones. 

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Over the past 15 years, I worked as a journalist and a literary editor; I wrote profusely about Bengali fiction in general and Bangladeshi fiction and poetry in particular. I interviewed many non-Bangladeshi readers and writers for feature articles I worked on. That’s how I came to learn that not only Anglophone readers but foreign readers of all hues look for a book that will give them an idea of Bangladeshi fiction, without having to browse through many books. This was one of the reasons behind putting this anthology together, no doubt, but there emerged a bigger picture, which, albeit disheartening, gave me the final push to take up this project. 

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Let me put in perspective what I call the bigger picture.

Bangladeshi fiction written in Bangla has always suffered from poor representation in the outside world. India has a thriving publishing scene where both multinational and independent publishers are bringing out a lot of English translations of vernacular literatures. If a particular translation is successful, the literary agency representing the book approaches publishers in Europe and North America. Then there are many English newspapers, supplements and literary magazines—both online and offline—that promote Indian writers. Between the publishers and the literary supplements and magazines, Indian writers, those from West Bengal included, have much bigger scopes of representation than their counterparts from any other South Asian countries. So, these stories are being put out into the world in the expectation that they contribute, if only a little, to addressing the representational gap of Bangladeshi fiction. 

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Then there are those discourses that attempt to characterise Bangladeshi fiction. The one that still does the rounds in many circles is that Bangladeshi writing is stuck to realism, not enough inward-looking and experimental. The explanation that often accompanies this view is that the social conditions arising out of continued political unrest from the 1950s through the 1970s to the 1990s have left Bangladeshi writing tied up heavily to social-political awareness and realism, and thus has impeded its growth. A couple of theories can be deduced from this explanation: first, social-political awareness weakens fictional writing; secondly, realism gives a rather narrow or skewed view of life and hence, is an obsolete mode of representation; and thirdly, if a piece of writing is not inward-looking, it is not necessarily rich. 

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To begin with, in Bangladesh there is no dearth of fictional writing that is inward-looking and experimental. The fact of the matter is: Bangladeshi writing has never been stuck to realism. Realism has made its way into Bengali fiction and subsequently into Bangladeshi fiction, like it has into any other literature emerging from South Asia and other parts of Asia. But has it been made use of in similar ways by every writer in the same era or in different eras? The narrowly defined notion of realism—representing reality as it is from an objective point of view—is likely to have its deleterious effects on one’s writing. In the hands of a gifted writer, however, realism can become a most useful tool to tell stories. It precisely explains why in a post-modernist and post-realist world, realism is still alive and kicking. Marquez makes use of realism in his magnum opus, One Hundred Years of Solitude, known mainly as a masterpiece in magic realism. His Love in the Time of Cholera is devoid of magical elements and labyrinthine narration, and instead, is steeped in his version of realism which gives us a complex world of many realities. In much the same way, Bangladeshi fiction writers, such as Akhtaruzzaman Elias, have used many narrative modes to tell their stories, realism being one of them. 

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Also, realism cannot be tied up to specific socio-cultural and economic conditions. Sri Lankan writer Anuk Arudpragasam’s DSC Prize-winning novel The Story of a Brief Marriage relies heavily on realism. Set in the final days of the Sri Lankan Civil War in a Tamil-majority village, the novel portrays a band of innocent Tamil civilians who, cornered by indiscriminate shelling launched by Sri Lankan security forces, are awaiting death. A man and a woman get married in such extreme circumstances just so they don’t die before experiencing sex. The irony and pathos emanating from those circumstances create a great novel. Indian author Rajkamal Jha’s 2018 novel The City and the Sea, on the other hand, is constructed on a thread of interconnected memories shared by a woman (a rape victim), children (victims of a school shooting) and migrants (victims of an accident on the Mediterranean), all of whom are dead. Scottish-American writer Douglas Stuart’s Booker-winning novel Shuggie Bain is an amazing work in the realistic vein, whereas Indian author Geetanjali Shree’s Booker-winning The Tomb of Sand does not have an iota of realism in it. 
Therefore, claiming realism as the sole property or a salient feature of Bangladeshi fiction is a prejudice, to say the least, predicated on a fractured view of Bangladesh’s fiction. 

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As for the social-political-historical dimension of Bangladeshi fiction, I believe whether this trait works as a weakening or enriching feature of a literature depends solely on how one looks at literature, through which lens. If one wears a lens tinged with Western notions of abstraction and libido, they might reach various conclusions about how societal issues and politics suck the life out of fiction. But if one chooses to question the various Western lenses and reads with an open mind, perhaps they will realise that this trait is common to many literary traditions across the globe, including in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and even Europe and North America. In his introduction to A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces, David Davidar writes, ‘A number of India’s pioneering short story writers had a common element in their stories—they were often extremely political in nature.’ This trend continues unabated not only in India but in literatures across all of South Asia and South East Asia. The problem does not lie with content; what matters in the end is how a content is given literary articulation. Hanif Quereishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia, Amitav Ghosh’s The Gun Island, Amit Chaudhury’s Odysseus Abroad, Kamila Shamsie’s Kartography, Annie Zaidie’s Prelude to a Riot—all these are highly successful novels which are also political in nature even though they are written in vastly different ways. One of Bangladesh’s most critically acclaimed novels is called Social and Political Realities, written by Shahidul Zahir. But the title appears to be beguiling when one finds out that it is written wonderfully in a magic realist vein.  

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Therefore, the principal aim of this book is to challenge all stereotypes about Bangladesh and its fiction, to walk readers through its pre- and post-independence decades to demonstrate the diversity and richness of its fiction on the one hand and on the other, to give them a picture of its journey from the 1950s to the 1990s, to show that Bangladesh’s fiction, like any great literature, defies broad generalisations and offers a roller-coaster ride to readers. 

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Broadly speaking, Bengali fiction, just like Bengali poetry and drama and criticism, was divided till the 1950s into three main traditions: modernist, realist and indigenous storytelling traditions. Although Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s Sultana’s Dream was published in as early as 1905, feminism was a much later development. In both parts of Bengal, voices of remarkable female writers weren’t heard before the 1960s. 

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Bangladeshi fiction writers were to build on the foundation laid by Tagore and the three Bandyopadhyays. The only difference was that for writers from West Bengal it was an uninterrupted continuity, whereas the Bangladeshi writers (then known as East Pakistani), as aptly pointed out by Ahmad Mustafa Kamal in his book Bangla Golper Uttaradhikar (The Patrimony of Bengali Short Stories), had to carve new paths, if not new traditions, as they were to portray the lives and cultures and struggles of a Muslim-majority population hitherto under-represented in Bengali fiction. That’s why, quite naturally a couple of writers at the beginning produced works that were not technically perfect. But soon enough, since the 1950s we have got writers as brilliant as Sarder Joyenuddin, Abu Zafar Shamsuddin, Abu Rusdh, Rashid Karim, Syed Waliullah, Abu Ishaque, Shawkat Osman, Alauddin Al Azad and Syed Shamsul Haq, among others. Some of them wrote in the realist vein, some in the modernist vein, and some combined both. 

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Rashid Karim, though not included in this collection, deserves mention. His modernist experimentation in stories like ‘Prem Ekti Lal Golap’ (Love is a Red Rose) was authentic and most powerful among his peers. Syed Mujtaba Ali, with his unique wit and humour, brought a cosmopolitan touch to Bengali fiction and non-fiction writing, and no doubt he was our first writer to have blurred the distinction between fiction and non-fiction. Abu Ishaque wrote in the realist tradition and he substantively enriched the form of allegory. Alauddin Al Azad wrote in the realist vein developed by Manik Bandyopadhyay, which combined Marxism and Freudian psychoanalysis. In Azad’s hands, this model was taken several notches higher. His most powerful story perhaps is ‘Bristi’ (Rain). It is about an influential village leader who is about to impose a harsh fatwa on a woman for having had an illicit affair while his son from his first marriage is having sex with his newly wedded second wife when it is pouring down with torrential rain. ‘Bristi’ has widely been anthologised as a story, that’s why I have chosen a different story for this collection. But the most powerful writing, in my view, has come from those who sought to create something totally new by combining realism and modernism. Consider the stories, for example, by Syed Waliullah, the writer who wrote the first successful novel (Lal Salu) and clusters of stories from this part of Bengal. Every writer who came after Waliullah has acknowledged their debt to him. In his story ‘Ekti Tulsi Gachher Atmokahini’ (Tale of a Tulsi Plant), the modern precision with which the third-person narrator articulates a group of Muslim refugees’ reverence for a tulsi plant in a house deserted by a Hindu family who themselves, in all likelihood, have become refugees in the western wing of Bengal; is a towering achievement. Another immensely gifted short story writer from the 1950s was Syed Shamsul Haq who is also Bangladesh’s biggest versatile author. 

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The 1960s, the most important decade in the entire history of Bangladesh, saw developments that led to the 1971 liberation war and subsequently an independent Bangladesh. This was also the most vibrant decade for Bangladesh’s short fiction. Writers who emerged in this decade included Hasan Azizul Huq, Jyotiprakash Dutta, Mahmudul Haque, Shawkat Ali, Selina Hossain, Rizia Rahman, Abdul Mannan Syed, Rabeya Khatun, Dilara Hasem, Akhtaruzzaman Elias and Kayes Ahmed. The rise of a middle class and its search for cultural and political identity gave rise to several literary tendencies—Marxism, nationalism, exploration of the individual’s mind and sexuality, surrealism, absurdism and feminism. This was also the decade which saw Bangladesh’s first batch of brilliant female voices. Mannan never strayed from surrealism and exploration of the mind. Jyotiprakash has consciously shied away from realism and his experimentation with storytelling techniques remains unparalleled to this day. It is difficult to categorise Mahmudul’s dialogue-heavy, nostalgia-laden stories but they are always innovative, socially conscious and emotionally engaging. Selina is one of Bangladesh’s biggest politically and historically conscious writer; social issues, women and indigenous people find robust expressions in her writing. Rizia, too, has significantly widened the horizons of the Marxist and feminist themes and areas of thought. Hasan, Shawkat, Elias and Kayes took the Marxist tradition to unsurpassable heights in their own unique ways. Elias’s simultaneous use of modernist and postmodernist techniques (stream of consciousness, wit, humour, dialect, religious and indigenous myths etc.) in a realistic garb makes for such an explosive combination that many of his contemporaries and later writers had difficulty accepting his unique version of writing in the Marxist tradition. In addition to using both 1st person and 3rd person narrators, Kayes combines fiction and non-fiction in a very emotionally engaging way. With his exquisite description, Hasan, perhaps our most towering figure in the realm of short fiction, creates a thrilling atmosphere. Like a thriller writer, he pulls the reader in, makes them breathe the air of his fictional world; he then works consistently either to construct a formidable allegory or symbol, or to catch the reader off guard with a shocking revelation that slices through them like the biting cold from the northern region where a large number of his stories are set. 

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Post-independence, the biggest thematic tendency was to write about the liberation war. Every living soul was touched by the sweeping, colossal scale of the war and its overarching effects. Writers irrespective of their caste and creed and class responded to the war and its aftermath. Those from the 1960s as well as those who emerged in the 1970s and the 1980s wrote about the horrors and sacrifices and promises of the war. With equal intensity, they also wrote about the betrayals during and after the war and how the promises of the war remained unfulfilled. Shushanto Majumdar and Manju Sarker stuck to realism and allegory. On the other hand, Wasi Ahmed, loyal to the Marxist tradition like Shushanto and Manju, focused on the art of storytelling and characters’ psychological vicissitudes. Wasi’s stories more often than not verge on the surreal. Moinul Ahsan Saber, on the other hand, fictionalised modernist and socialist concerns with his unique storytelling techniques. 

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At the end of the 1970s, Bangladeshi fiction was on the cusp of a breakthrough. Even before absorbing the initial shock deriving from the colossal loss of lives and the unfulfilled dreams of the war, the country fell back into the clutches of military dictatorship, so political unrest continued till democracy was restored in 1990. Even then, new literary tendencies hitherto unknown to Bengali fiction manifested themselves, changing the literary landscape. Since the beginning of the 1980s, first, the already existing traditions have continued to flourish embracing new dimensions; secondly, Bangladeshi fiction has taken a shift towards non-realistic and post-modernist narrative modes; thirdly, many writers have started questioning the European models of storytelling and hence, tilted towards indigenous storytelling traditions and magic realism; and fourthly, popular fiction has seen an exponential rise. 

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More and more authentic and courageous women writers joined the literary journey. Although Anwara Syed Haq and Purabi Basu had started writing in the 1960s, the stories and novels they are most known for appeared after the independence. Both Anwara and Purabi have explored many different narrative possibilities, from 3rd person to 1st person to fairy-tale like modes of narration. Purabi’s story ‘Radha Aaj Radhibe Na’ (Radha Will not Cook Today) has assumed something of a legendary status because of the dramatic way in which a woman defies her gender role just for a day. Like Azad’s ‘Bristi’, this story too is widely anthologised, which is why I have selected another story that will give readers an equally big jolt. Nasreen Jahan writes about women’s desires but in her powerful and at times ironic narratives, women are never idealised. Taslima has given a radical spin to feminist writing in Bangladesh. While she tackles issues of religious fundamentalism in her novels, in her lucid, bold stories, she portrays strong women who never give up without a fight. Shaheen Akhtar started writing rather late in her career, which is why her stories appeared in the 1990s. She writes in the Marxist-feminist tradition. Reminiscent of the dialogic nature of Elias’s stories, Shaheen’s stories dig out the intersections of gender and class and race. Monira Qais is another powerful writer who talks freely about women’s sexuality and other social-political issues in her experimental narratives.

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The biggest revolution in the realm of storytelling was waged undoubtedly by Shahidul Zahir. Zahir always shunned away from realism and modernism as he regarded them both as models of European storytelling. Zahir made the most creative use of magic realism. In the stories he didn’t use magic, his narrators spoke from a distinct collective consciousness with a clear indication that this is not omniscient narration. Zahir’s achievement has had lasting impacts on writers from the 1990s and 2000s. Another post-modern author who combines self-reflexivity, magic and newspaper reports to create thrilling stories is Syed Manzoorul Islam. The rise of popular fiction can be attributed solely to Humayun Ahmed and Imdadul Haq Milon. Humayun was never a stickler for either realism or modernism. Apart from popular fiction and genre fiction targeting a young audience, he’s written amazing stories in the non-realistic vein. Milon too has written in various genres, dealing with issues of religious fundamentalism, social disintegration and migration. His story ‘Song of a Strange Bird’, included in this collection, reads like a story being told by a wizened old man from a remote village with a basket full of stories.

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The 1990s saw the biggest explosion of creativity in Bangladeshi fictional writing. The writers who embarked on the scene in this decade showed a genuine propensity to break away from established norms, if not from traditions. Almost all writers since the 1990s have told their stories in narratives that are totally new, or that combine existing norms with new ones. Stories written by Mamun Hussain, Parvez Hossain, Rashida Sultana, Imtiar Shamim, Prasanta Mridha, Shahaduzzaman, Mashiual Alam, Shahnaz Munni, Ahmad Mustafa Kamal, Audity Falguni, Zakir Talukdar, Jharna Rahman, Papree Rahman, Dipen Bhattacharya and Afsana Begum, among many others, bear remarkable marks of such traits.

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Now a few words about the selection and the timeline of the stories. As mentioned earlier, the goal is to break all stereotypes about Bangladesh’s fiction by way of showcasing its richness and diversity. Therefore, while making this selection, alongside powerful storytelling, I have also considered elements (such as historicity, thematic or stylistic breakthrough, narrative technique, etc.) that make a story special in the context of a particular decade or era. That explains why this book is threaded around not by one particular theme but by a number of themes including partition, the 1971 liberation war, social revolution and feminism. It demonstrates the same spirit as evinced by an academic anthology which traces the developments of a literary genre (or several genres) through different historical periods, highlighting the important features or changes that an individual writer or a group of writers are bringing about. Although Bangladesh celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence throughout last year (2022), including multiple themes seems to take us closer to a holistic approach than cramming the selection with stories about only one theme: the liberation war, for example. The story of Bangladesh cannot be understood without a solid understanding of the 1971 war but then limiting this understanding to the war, ignoring the decades that preceded and followed it, only runs the risk of offering a partial view of both Bangladesh and its literature. That’s why the stories on betrayal and unfulfilled promises are as much about the war as those on heroism and sacrifice. While I cannot claim to trace every feature and development in Bangladeshi fiction, I can say that I have made an attempt to capture the most important features and developments. 

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It would have made more sense to extend the timeline to the 2010s but that would have taken me more time to collaborate with more writers and translators. Another choice was to incorporate some writers from the 2000s and 2010s, and make this mix more interesting and colourful. But I have chosen not to do so because it would mean selecting four or five writers at the expense of 15 or more who are equally important. The only exceptions are Afsana Begum and Dipen Bhattacharya, both of whom embarked on the scene after the 2000s. This is so because Dipen’s story is an absolutely fresh look into the sci-fi genre while Afsana’s story allegorises in a magical narrative how freethinking bloggers and writers are attacked by self-proclaimed jihadists blinded by faith. Without these two stories, the aim of thematic diversity would have remained unachieved. So it appears that the best choice is to give these two decades and the current one more time to ripen with all its unique features, one of which is the fact that in the current literary scene gifted male writers are being outnumbered by gifted female writers.

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Instead of going for random selections from the last two decades, I have tried to make the five decades from the 1950s to the 1990s as much inclusive as I can. But no matter how hard anyone in my position tries, there is no way they can ensure the inclusion of all the important writers in an anthology of this kind. If I included more writers from the 1950s, or say, the 1970s, I’d risk leaving out some important voices from the 1980s and the 1990s. Despite my best efforts, I regret not having included Somen Chanda, Rashid Karim, Abu Zafar Shamsuddin, Abu Rushd, Razia Khan, Saleha Chowdhury, Mahbub Talukdar, Bashir Al Helal, Al Mahmud, Makbula Manzoor, Bipradas Barua, Khaleda Edib Chowdhury, Haripada Dutta, Ata Sarkar, Bulbul Chowdhury, Anisul Hoque, Kajal Shahnewaz, Akmal Hosen Nipu and Rafiqur Rashid, among others. 

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Another big challenge was how to organise the stories? Should they be organised in a chronological order, based on the author’s date of birth, or their appearance on the literary scene? I have eschewed these choices and instead, have prioritised the importance of the story in the context of Bangladesh’s literary history. 

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I really hope this anthology travels far beyond the borders of Bangladesh. Bangladeshi fiction has a lot in common with fiction from other languages of South Asia and South East Asia, but then a careful reading of the stories collected here will reveal that Bangladeshi fiction has its nuances and unique moments as well. We can only hope that both its common and unique features will strike a chord with non-Bangalee readers in Asia and beyond. I also hope that this anthology will pave the way for translations between Bangla and other vernacular South Asian languages, so that these stories are translated, say, into Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Kannada and Nepalese, and stories from those and other languages are translated into Bangla. 

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