• Sunday, Nov 18, 2018
  • Last Update : 08:22 pm

The man who took literary criticism to greater heights

  • Published at 08:39 pm May 4th, 2017
  • Last updated at 05:01 pm May 7th, 2017
The man who took literary criticism to greater heights
Rakhaler Attochorit was Shantanu Kaiser’s first volume of poetry, published in 1982. A close look at the eponymous poem reveals how the poet, making use of myths from land afar, attempts to articulate a society riven by inequality and class division. Interesting to note, essayist and scholar Shantanu Kaiser started his literary journey with a collection of poetry. It was after a sizeable gap of twenty years that his second book of poetry, Shuvo Shubornojoyonti, came out in 2002. The title was to celebrate the golden jubilee of our Language Movement. Kaiser wrote poems, short stories, plays and novels but his innermost artistic splendour was expressed in his thought-provoking essays and research works. His essay writing revolves around eminent literary personalities such as Mir Mosharraf Hossain, Jibanananda Das, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Rabindranath Tagore, Sukanto, Bankimchandra Chatterjee and Adwaita Mallabarman. He wrote the biography of Adwaita Mallabarman and brought out many unknown facets of his life. His relentless research on Adwaita produced such illuminating books as Adwaita Mallabarman (Bangla Academy, 1987), Adwaita Mallabarman: Jiban, Shahitya ebong Onynyo (1998), Janmashatabarshe Adwaita Mallabarman: Jiban, Shahitya O Shanshkriti (2014). He edited Mallabarman’s Uponyassamagra and Titas Ekti Nadir Nam. He aptly adapted Titas into a successful play. He also edited Mallabarman’s translation of Lust for Life, based on the life of Vincent van Gogh, by Arving Stone, which is awaiting publication along with a revised edition of Mallabarman’s biography.
The theme of mass people or the perspectives represented by mass people cuts across all his creative and critical works. His quest to explore the lesser-known facets of legends was not limited to literature only
In each and every book on Mallabarman, Shantanu has combined facts extracted from pertinacious research with rich analyses. Renewed interest in the works of Mallabarman around the globe owes largely to Kaiser's research. His research on poets, too, has always crossed conventional borderlines. He wrote Ful o Nazrul (Flower and Nazrul) to encapsulate the exuberant presence of flowers in his poems. The book was highly praised by readers and critics alike. He also wrote a novel on the life and works of Nazrul, Oi Nutoner Keton Ore. Debjan: Shorgo o Prithibir Dondo (Debjan: conflict between heaven and earth), his interpretation of the first 70 pages of the novel, Debjan, by Bankimchandra, bears the testimony of his aptitude as an essayist. His evaluation of Jibanananda Das's prose in Gobhir Gobhirotoro Oshukh: Goddoshottar Jibonanondo (Deep, deepest illness: Jibanananda's prosaic self) was sharp and as always, backed by detailed analysis. Kaiser's most remarkable research work, undoubtedly, is Tritiyo Mir (The third Mir). Terming Mir's individual self the “first Mir” and his artistic self the “second Mir”, he sought to find the “third Mir” in his essays like “Jagat paradhin kintu mon swadhin” (The world is enslaved but the mind is free), and “Gazi miyar tritiyo nayan” (The third eye of Gazi Miya). The book, Bankimchandra, is another solid contribution by Kaiser to the world of literary criticism. He also edited the oeuvre of late Khan Mohammad Farabi and his introduction to the book will serve as a substantive piece on the writing of Farabi.
Also read: http://www.dhakatribune.com/magazine/2016/10/06/confluence-not-river/
He showed considerable interest in drama too. In the Bangla Academy language martyrs series, he wrote Kabyonatak (a 1986 edition came out in the title, Kabyo and Natak: Kabyonatyo). Banglasesher Natok O Natyodwander Itihash (Drama of Bangladesh and the history of dramatic conflicts, 2014) is his collection of essays on different aspects of Bangladesh's drama and also on playwrights like Dinbandhu Mitra, Selim Al Deen, Mamunur Rashid, Syed Shamsul Haque, Levedev, Trpti Mitra, Zia Haider, SM Solaiman and Syed Waliullah. He translated American theorist Robert Brustein's Theatre of Revolt in the title, Bidrohi Natyotatwo: Troyi Natyokar. The rebel playwrights are Bertolt Brecht, Ja Jene and Luis Pirandello. Apart from his contribution in translation and criticism, he himself has written many plays including Shajonmegh, Rupantar (Transformation), Amra (We) and Tumi (You). The last one, Tumi, is a historical play based on the romantic side of Nabab Siraj-ud-Doula's life. The theme of mass people or the perspectives represented by mass people cuts across all his creative and critical works. His quest to explore the lesser-known facets of legends was not limited to literature only. He authored the biographies of philosopher Aroj Ali Matubbor and martyr Dr Mortuza Bashir. He was equally enthused to write biographies of poet Razia Khatun Choudhurani (1907-34) and cultural organiser-writer Nazma Jasmin Chowdhury. Not long ago he wrote the biographies of Mir Mosharraf Hossain and Shawkat Osman, two writers from two different times and geographies. For him biography was the essence extracted from careful inspection of one's life. It was he who took literary biography to that height where it is seen as a separate genre and written in an objective and dispassionate manner, incorporating not only the highs but also the lows. He was a professor of literature and taught at many government colleges. Wherever he went, he created a cultural and literary hub of writers and artists and orked unitedly with them to bring out literary magazines. Born in Chadpur, he spent most of his life in Comilla where he founded a cultural organisation called Somotot. The organisation initiated an annual Dhirendranath Dutta memorial lecture. In its last meeting presided by him, Shantanu selected a topic focusing on the golden jubilee of the birth of Bangladesh. But before he could materialise his plan, death came silently and took him away. Life is short but art is immortal. Shantanu will always be remembered for his contribution to Bengali literature. His devotion to art and literature will continue to inspire future generations. (Translated by Hasnin Hassan)
Pias Majid is a young poet, essayist and short story writer. He has published several volumes of poetry and essay.