Five eminent female Bengali authors who stir the psyche

Representation matters

Culture

November 21, 2018

/ By / New Delhi



book-reading-article
Women authors around the world were the first to voice the need of agency and the importance of political liberation in the spectrum of activists through their pen. They showed the world the misery, distress, and discrimination half of the humanity lives with. 

The culturally fertile land of Bengali has produced a number of virtuoso writers and groundbreaking novels over the years. Those creators and creations managed to stirred public psyche and have been the subject of heated debate for a long time. Any discourse about Bengali literature would be incomplete without the contribution made by its female counterpart. Even when conceived by male authors, female protagonists in Bengali novels were usually shown as women of substance and with a conscience of their own. When women authors took the responsibility of representing themselves in literature, it not just offered a new perspective to the readers but also portrayed holistically the world women reside in with its hope, lust, humour, despair and aspirations.

 

ashapurna-devi

The first Pioneer

Asha Purna Devi: Born into an orthodox north Kolkata family, Ashapura Devi’s whole life was spent amidst the confinement of four walls. Her writings walk us through the lives of kitchen milieus in 19th century. She essays a time when Bengal Renaissance is slowly picking up pace and woman’s liberation movement is finding its ground. There were archaic customs. There were social censures­ and women’s journey to self-discovery was laden with inflexible patriarchal prohibitions. There was also an ardent wish to break free from the shackles of society. Her most celebrated work is ‘The First Promise’ which was published in 1964. Satyabati, the feisty, outspoken, and maverick protagonist of the novel will definitely strike a chord with today’s readers.

 

 

 

tasleema-nasrin

At an FFRF award ceremony

Taslima Nasreen: There is no dearth of authors who are raging atheists in Bengal. Taslima is undoubtedly the most prominent of them all. Noted humanitarian and a stark critic of religious fundamentalism, this Bangladeshi writer has faced vehement attack for her opinion on religion, women’s rights, and patriarchy. Several of her books were banned on the ground of upsetting religious sentiments both in India and Bangladesh. Taslima Nasrin has received Simon De Beauvoir award for her commitment to women’s rights in 2008. Many of her literary works such as ‘My Girlhood’, ‘Shame’, ‘French Lover’ garnered critical accolade as well as denunciation from several conformist establishment for its strong language and ‘vulgar’ themes. Currently in exile, Taslima Nasrin is an honorary Swedish citizen and routinely contributes to several newspaper, columns in both Bengali and English.

 

 

suchitra-bhattachrya

Creator of ‘Mitin Mashi’

Suchitra Bhattacharya: A household name in Bengal, Suchitra Bhattacharya tells the tale of everyday women. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say she was the conscience keeper of middle-class Bengali women. Composed in crystal-clear language, her account of mundane females are more nuanced than what meets our eyes. Several of her works such as Dahan, Kacher Manush, Hemanter Pakhi were adapted into silver screen. Bhattacharya’s simplistic approach is what made her immensely popular to the masses. Her novels don’t throw the readers into an excruciating existential crisis but it puts a mirror in front of them. Pointing out the prejudices of an urban milieu in a subtle manner was definitely one of her fortes.

 

 

mahsweta-devi

‘I am not afraid of anyone’

 

Mahasweta Devi: Coming from a family of dissenters, Mahasweta Devi till her death was a vociferous advocate of tribal rights. She penned down again and again the atrocities and miseries caused to the indigenous population of this country. Hajar Churashir Ma, Rudali, Draupadi are testament to the rigorousness of her commitment. Well-versed in political writing, Mahasweta Devi has written over a 100 novels and 20 collections of short stories. Her work centres around the people who did not find place in mainstream art, culture and literature. Mahasweta Devi again and again lambasted the government’s acquisition policy to snatch away the land of tribal masses. Never been afraid of possible retaliation, Mahasweta Devi said, ” I am the wife Bijon Bhattachraya and Ritwik Ghatak’s niece. We don’t know what fear is.”

 

 

sangeeta-banerjee

India’s Elena Ferrante

Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay: Dubbed as India’s Elena Ferrante, Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay’s writing is fierce, unapologetic and brutally honest. Her first novel ‘Panty’ turned quite a few heads with an explicit narration of sexuality. Over the time with other novels like Sakhini, Yogini, Ghat, and Ruh, she mustered the art of telling convoluted stories of the heart. Her writings often transcend conventional boundary and offer glimpse into the disturbing and obscure thoughts of human psyche. In an interview with an Indian media, Sangeeta addresses to the upcoming writers, “No woman should probably keep this in mind that society has a negative relationship with women. If they do, it will be impossible to write.”

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