To mark this day, The Business Standard’s Sadiqur Rahman, KN Deya and Pramila Kanya spoke to some of Bangladesh’s influential writers and heard their stories of inspiration, likes and dislikes
The International Day of the Book has been celebrated since April 23, 1995. The original idea was of the Valencian writer Vicente Clavel Andrés as a way to honour the author Miguel de Cervantes, first on October 7, his birth date, and then on April 23, the day he died.
In 1995 Unesco decided that the World Book and Copyright Day would be celebrated on April 23 as the date is also the death anniversary of William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, as well as that of the birth or death of several other prominent authors. To mark this day, The Business Standard's Sadiqur Rahman, KN Deya and Pramila Kanya spoke to some of Bangladesh's influential writers and heard their stories of inspiration, likes and dislikes
I still find inspiration from Tagore's Chhinnapatra
Selina Hossain, Writer
Although I was influenced by Marxism when I started writing in the early '60s, I love nature and try to take inspiration from it. That is why Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore's epistolary Chhinnapatra is my favourite one. The book is also a historical description of the British rule in Bengal.
Tagore's unique descriptions of the landscape of some of his estates in Bangladesh, such as Shilaidaha, Shajadpur and Patisar, touches my mind.
Whenever I feel bad, I read that book. I still keep it on my reading table. I read the book for the first time during my university days in the 1960s.
Tagore wrote that he would probably have failed to see the beautiful Bengal had he not stepped out of Calcutta [Kolkata].
The book inspired me to write my novel Purno Chhobir Mognota in 2008.
Human beings and nature are interrelated – this is the crucial lesson I take from Tagore's writing. Dwijen Sharma's Shyamoli Nishorgo is also one of my favourite reads.
Christopher Caudwell's Illusion and Reality changed me
Sajjad Sharif, Poet
I was mesmerised when I read Cristopher Caudwell's Illusion and Reality during my younger days in the '80s.
Disappointed by the stubbornness of the local leftist politicians, I picked up the book to learn about principles. And it completely reconstructed my creative mind. Despite being a Marxist, Caudwell stood for spontaneous individual writing. He never stood for dictation of the creative mind.
What did Caudwell write in his book? The way we view art and literature, how art and literature influence human history, how it changes people's thought processes, how the human mind is revealed within it, how history plays a role, how people are socialised through literary practice, how civilisation evolves and more. Caudwell discussed the issues in a pragmatic way.
The book is philosophical, historical and revolutionary at the same time. I was amazed by how well a revolutionary book can explore history. By reading the book, I learnt that history is not a matter of the past, rather it inspires us to live in the future.
Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude restructured my style of writing
Swakrito Noman, Writer
My favourite read is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Colombian author and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez.
The novel, published in 1967, influenced the way I write novels, which had previously been inspired by Victorian, Soviet and French literary styles.
For the first time, One Hundred Years of Solitude proved that a novel can be an epic. Incorporating the interrelation between every creature can be possible in a novel, Marquez proved it, I think. I was amazed when I finished reading the novel in 2011.
I can still recall the plot, when José Arcadio Buendía, the central character of the novel returned to his village. The in-depth description made me emotional.
The integral message of the novel that the world is a battlefield and every living creature is struggling to survive, is still relevant. The novel is among the five timeless titles which can help people reveal the history of civilisation again.
I set Tarashankar's Kabi as the standard
Rumana Baishakhi, Writer
I take Kabi by Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay as my guiding book. A lot of people know of Humayun Ahmed's book of the same name, but not many know about the one by Tarashankar. The book holds a deep philosophy, which comes at the absolute end of the book!
There is one male lead and two female leads, and there are significant socio-political events in between. The profound dialogue at the end is "Why is life so short?" It puts the struggle of the protagonist in a whole new light.
I can compare the book with Shakespeare's novels in terms of relevance throughout history. Just like how writers till now use the patterns that are in Shakespeare's works, modern Bangla writers also use elements from Tarashankar's Kabi, because the elements in it are realistic and not constrained by time or place. A very important part of his writing is death, and it is a constant because human life will always remain short and bound to death.
Tarashankar's writing provides such an expert weaving of words, and it is so catchy that it will spellbind a reader till the end.
The dynamics of man vs AI makes Machines Like Me a fascinating read
Syed Manzoorul Islam, Writer
Ian McEwan is one of my favourite British novelists, whose Amsterdam got him a Man Booker prize in 1998. A friend gave me his 2019 book Machines Like Me a couple of months ago, which I would have ignored for a while more, if the Corona pandemic had not recalibrated our lives, work and leisure.
I finished reading Machines Like Me only a few days ago and found it to be a fascinating read, mainly because of the way McEwan addresses the dynamics of man vs artificial intelligence (as well as manmade consciousness), involving questions of morality, human responsibility and the limits to which science can go.
However, there are five books that I re-read whenever I can. These are The Tempest by Shakespeare, Chhinnpatra by Tagore, The Outsider by Albert Camus, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez) and Romancero Gitano by Federico Garcia Lorca.