The visible growth of quality translations of Bangladeshi fiction and poetry warrants a look at this list
Quality English translation is the vehicle by which the rich heritage of Bangladeshi literature can navigate the world. Literary translation of Bangladeshi fiction and poetry has grown slowly but steadily over the past two decades, despite many challenges. However, many commendable translations produced by our talented translators could not break into the Anglophone markets. Not quality but the lack of proper promotion is to be blamed for it. Arts & Letters with its commitment to promote Bangladeshi literature continues to endorse quality translations.
The list below is a selection of commendable translations of fictional and poetic texts from Bangladesh that deserve wide circulation. This is the second in a series, which aims to introduce Anglophone readers to the rich literary heritage of Bangladeshi literature.
In a world caught unawares by a global pandemic, when outdoor leisure activities are still widely discouraged and books remain our best companions, this list gives you some idea what to read next.
(The books in this list are presented in order of their publication date)
Jibanananda Das: Selected Poems with an Introduction, Chronology, and Glossary
Translated by Fakrul Alam
Published by The University Press Ltd (1999)
Jibanananda Das (1899-1954) is perhaps the most influential poet in the history of modern Bengali poetry. Nevertheless, he remains a poet little known outside West Bengal and Bangladesh. This translation of his selected poems is designed to emphasize how Das's poems are great treasures of our literature. The first edition of Fakrul Alam's English translations was intended to mark the birth centenary celebrations of Jibanananda Das in 1999. In later editions, more translations were added to present readers with a broader range of Das's poetry. Lovers of poetry outside the Bengali-speaking world will get a sense of the richness of Das's poetry, his growth as a poet, and the extraordinary range of his work through these translations.
Tree Without Rootsby Syed Waliullah
Transcreated by the author himself
Edited by Niaz Zaman
Published by The University Press Ltd (2005)
Tree Without Rootsis the English translation of Syed Waliullah’s classic novel Lal Shalu.With no land or skills to support himself, Majeed preys upon the simple rural folk by exploiting religion, becoming the self-appointed guardian of a mazar,which he claims is that of a saint. Not satisfied with his first wife, he marries again, this time a woman who is not as amenable as his loving first wife. In the English version, now generally believed to be translated by Syed Waliullah himself, Majeed acquires a certain grandeur at the end, returning alone to the mazardefying raging flood waters. A picture of rural Bangladesh in the early forties, Tree Without Rootsalso provides a picture of eternal Bangladesh, subject to the ravages of nature, of storms and floods, of cyclones and dying rivers.
Though critical of the practice of using religion to exploit people, Syed Waliullah looks sympathetically at Majeed for whom religion means food and shelter. Told in Syed Waliullah’s simple, idiomatic and occasionally lyrical English, Tree Without Rootsis imperative reading for anyone interested in knowing the Bengali mind and the impact of religion and superstition on the rural populace.
Galpa: Short Stories by Women from Bangladesh
Edited by Niaz Zaman and Firdous Azim
Published by RachanaWriters.ink(2005)
Beginning with Roquiah Sakhawat Husseins Sultana's Dream, the anthology spans a hundred years of women's writing from this region and is representative of the variety of issues that women from Bangladesh tackle in their writings. It includes stories about the War of Liberation, women’s honour, mother-daughter relationships, the vagaries of marriage and contemporary political corruption. Well-established and award-winning women writers such as Selina Hussain, Rabeya Khatoon, Nasreen Jahan, Purabi Basu, and Shaheen Akhtar along with emerging writers who are beginning to make their mark have been represented here, the better to evoke the broad range of women's literary voices. Galpahas been co-edited by Firdous Azim and Niaz Zaman, who have earlier collaborated on Infinite Variety, Bhinno Chokhe, and Different Perspectives.
Radha Will Not Cook Today and Other Storiesby Purabi Basu
Translated by various translators
Edited by Niaz Zaman
Written over a span of thirty years, from the mid-seventies to the present, the stories in this anthology suggest the range of Purabi Basu's themes as well as the versatility of her craft. At the same time, whether writing about a mythic region as in "The Rage of Moonlight" or about contemporary America as in "Stairs," whether couched in the poetic lilt of "Radha Will Not Cook Today" or in the prosaic listing of scientific data of "Mother-Earth," the stories reveal the writer's feminist concerns as well as her deep humanistic sensibilities. Her variety of styles, structure and language is sure to appeal to a range of readers. Despite being translations, the stories in this volume, rendered into English by translators, many of whom are poets or short story writers, in Bangla or in English, literary editors and editors of literary magazines, will help convey to an audience not familiar with the original Bangla the richness of Purabi Basu's talent.
Ibrahim Buksh’s Circus and Other Stories byShahaduz Zaman
Translated by Sonia Amin
Published by The University Press Limited (2008)
Shahaduz Zaman's content, style and form do not follow a set or conventional pattern. He combines the narrative style of folk tales with the most intricate and experimental elements of modern day storytelling, to create his own oeuvre. Prose, poetry, fantasy and reality break their own boundaries and blend in his work. He’s also published non-fiction books on film, travelogue, collection of interviews and essays on issues related to art and culture.
Caged in Paradise and Other Storiesby Rizia Rahman
Edited by Niaz Zaman and Shirin Hasnat Islam
Published by The University Press Ltd (2010)
The stories in this anthology have been selected from four decades of Rizia Rahman’s literary career, from the seventies to the present. The stories have been arranged fairly chronologically to suggest the development of the writer over the years. The stories cover a wide range of themes- from the rural to the urban, from historical events to contemporary situations, from feminist to humanist issues, from familiar to social concerns, from demographic to ecological changes.
Also read —Reading in the time of Corona: English translations of Bangladeshi fiction and poetry
The stories focus on the disparities and conflicts in both private and public arenas, on the socio-economic injustices that destroy human values and intrinsic rights, and on the personal weaknesses that distort human relationships.
Most of the stories are rooted in Bangladesh; some stories however bear references to international personalities and events that reveal a global consciousness. The stories not only introduce readers to a major Bangladeshi writer, but also make rewarding reading for anyone interested in serious literature.
The Perfect Model and Other Storiesby Anis Choudhury
Translated by Kaiser Haq
Published by Writers.ink(2010)
Anis Choudhury (1929-1990) made his literary debut in the 1940s, a decade that witnessed the beginnings of a modern movement in art and literature in Bengal. He soon came to be counted among the handful of writers who excelled in more than one genre. As a creative writer he has won a lasting place in the literary history of Bangladesh. As a short story writer, novelist and playwright he has given expression to varied aspects of Bangladeshi life. He is equally sensitive to the texture of Bangladeshi society, the historical contradictions Bangladesh has gone through, and the tensions and violent upheaval in politics.
The Woman Who Flewby Nasreen Jahan
Translated by Kaiser Haq
Published by Penguin (2012)
The Woman Who Flew (Urukkoo) tells the story of Nina, a young woman who moves from small-town Bangladesh to the megacity of Dhaka, where she soon finds herself divorced, bereaved of her newborn and trapped in a mundane existence. Hungry for fresh air, Nina strikes up a friendship with her mother’s handsome ex-lover, Irfan, who encourages her to paint again. But as Nina tugs at her chains, her sexually confused ex-husband, Rezaul, insinuates himself back into her life, leaving her pregnant.
Intense, edgy and tinged with rage, The Woman Who Flew lays bare the inner world of a woman beating her wings against a hostile, conservative landscape.
Freedom's motherby Anisul Hoque
Translated by Falguni Ray
Published by Palimpsest Publishing House (2012)
Freedom's Mother traces the invisible link between a gutsy woman's rebellion and a people's fight for independence. Long before women's rights became a fashionable term, Safia Begum protected her dignity as a wife and turned her back on the security of a lavish home. It was only natural that the rough and raw of war would enter her distressed household. Her only child joined the guerrilla campaign and she did not hold him back. Her home doubled up as a guerrilla base. After Azad was captured by the army, Safia Begum met him in the lockup. “Baba, I hope you have not given away your friends in the face of torture,” she told him, blowing away the last chance to save him.
In the backdrop of the 1971 Bangladesh War, Freedom's Mother is an epic tale of a woman's heroism that captures the pulse of an extraordinary time.
The Merman’s Prayer and Other Storiesby Syed Manzoorul Islam
Translated by the author himself
Published by Daily Star Books (2013)
The stories compiled in this collection constitute a very small part of Syed Manzoorul Islam’s creative writing. Put together, they nonetheless show all the traits unique to his storytelling. His narrator is continuously talking to readers, preparing them for the twists and turns the stories take. When the stories begin, readers are invited to become the narrator’s co-travellers as he promises to take them through a world where the boundaries between dream and reality blur every so often. The stories are told with poise and humour in the great Bengali oral tradition. His characters come from the fringes of society as well as from the urban middle class, and are drawn with compassion, understanding and power. Their desires and deprivations, their ecstasies and frustrations are all presented in a narrative which is magical and lucid at the same time.
On My Birthday and Other Poems in Translation
Selection of Poems from Bangladesh and West Bengal in Translation
Translated by Khademul Islam
Published by Bengal Lights Books (2016)
This book is a striking collection of translated poems from Bangladesh and West Bengal in India. They demonstrate the astonishing diversity and range of Bengali poets, as well as the enduring affinities, across a political and geographical divide, inherent in a common mother tongue and cultural heritage. The inclusion of the artwork that accompanied their original publication makes for a vivid and unique reading experience of the poems. The poets featured in the book include Buddhadev Bose, Samar Sen, Shakti Chattopadhyay, Mohammad Rafiq, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Subhash Mukhopadhyay, Mallika Sengupta, Asad Chowdhury, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Rafiq Azad, Ruby Rahman, Belal Chowdhury, Rafiq Azad, Taslima Nasreen and Rashida Sultana.
Selected Poems: Shamsur Rahman
Translated by Kaiser Haq
Second Edition Published by Pathak Samabesh (2016)
Shamsur Rahman was described as “the greatest Bengali poet of his generation” in a Guardian (London) obituary penned by William Radice. It is a view widely shared by Bengali readers in both Bangladesh and India. Rahman’s poetry ranges from the personal to the political, the lyrical to the meditative, the modernist to the nationalist. In this selection the complete range of his poetic achievement is presented to the Anglophone reader.
Deep Within the Heartby Syed Shamsul Haq
Translated by Sonia Amin
Published by Bengal Publications (2016)
Written in a dialect, Deep Within the Heart holds a unique place in modern Bengali poetry. It’s a collection of 33 sonnets marked with numbers, rather than titles. Taking inspiration from folk forms and rural lives, Syed Shamsul Haq explores the intricacies and intimacies of romantic relationship, the eternal interplay between a man and a woman. There are allusions to legends, myths, magical beliefs or practices of rural Bengal here. The rich, sensuous texture of the poems portrays the universal sense of loss, powerlessness and longing. It’s a timeless magical creation of Syed Shamsul Haq.
Rasha: Little Girl, Big Heartby Muhammed Zafar Iqbal
Translated by Arunava Sinha
Published by Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd (2016)
The breathtaking story of a feisty young girl Fifteen-year-old Rasha is abandoned by her mother in a village with her aged and probably mad-grandmother. Uprooted from her school and her friends back in cosmopolitan Dhaka, a disgruntled Rasha has to start life afresh in a faraway place with no electricity, incessant rains, nosy neighbours and a primitive school. Refusing to resign to the circumstances, Rasha rises against them and turns indomitable. Exposing a bullying teacher, nipping a child marriage in the bud, learning to take a boat to school and teaching her classmates how to use computers-these are only a few of this young girl s incredible exploits! But just as Rasha settles into her new life, new friends in tow, she is confronted by a nightmarish past that once ravaged her family. Will Rasha survive this daunting, and astounding, adventure?
Selected Poems of Kamal Chowdhury
Translated by fellows of Dhaka Translation Center
Published by Bengal Lights Books (2017)
With his unique style and prolific output addressing a diverse range of topics, Kamal Chowdhury enjoys a special place in the world of contemporary Bengali poetry. Over the past four decades, the poet has published sixteen volumes wherein he has skilfully explored poetry in all its forms. This collection presents an exclusive selection of his work, 125 poems taken from ten of his collections and translated into English by fellows of the Dhaka Translation Centre at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. The poems within are a discovery of the self and an exploration of joy and agony, fears and compulsions, life and death, man and nature. They will take readers on a journey encompassing the present as well as the past, across Bangladesh—its ordinary homes, paddy fields and riverbanks, cities and towns—and beyond, to the deserts of Egypt, the Kenyan savannah or some corner of Europe or North America.
This Path: Selected Poems of Mohammad Rafiq
Translated by Carolyn B. Brown
Published by Bengal Lights Books (2018)
This Path gathers poems by Mohammad Rafiq written over the course of more than forty years. During this time, Bengali readers have witnessed not only the evolution of a poet’s distinctive personal vision and voice but also a reflection of the changing fortunes of his homeland. Myths, folklore, and recent history are interwoven with timeless images of water and sky, sun and rain, clouds and dust. Now readers of English will have the opportunity to enter a poetic world populated by villagers, farmers, and boatmen, freedom fighters and autocrats, prostitutes and queens, where the wind carries the “burnt smell of sandalwood and sorrow” and hands are “spilling over with mud-spattered flowers.” The poet’s capacious imagination is reflected in striking juxtapositions: the river Styx flows beside the Padma and Jamuna; Adam and Eve coexist with Kuber and Kapila; and Cinderella’s face is a step away from Behula’s bridal chamber.
This Path includes notes from the author and translator and a foreword from Clinton B. Seely, University of Chicago professor emeritus, scholar of Bengali language and literature.
The Ballad of Ayeshaby Anisul Hoque
Translated by Inam Ahmed
Published by HarperPerennial (2018)
Dhaka. 2 October 1977. A military coup is thwarted, but the exact sequence of events is shrouded in mystery. Soon after, Ayesha Begum, recovering from the birth of her second child, receives a letter from the air force stating that her husband Joynal Abedin has been sentenced to death, convicted of insurgency. But has the verdict been carried out? If it was, when and where was he executed? If he was indeed hanged, what has happened to his body? Trying to find answers to these questions, Ayesha embarks on a long and arduous quest to search for her husband, reminiscent of Behula's epic journey in her effort to resurrect her dead husband Lakhinder in the Bengali folktale Manashamangal. Set against the backdrop of a raging famine, political assassinations and coups that took Bangladesh by storm right after its independence in 1971, Anisul Hoque's The Ballad of Ayesha is as much a story of the newly created nation as it is the story of its people.
Rifat Anjum Pia is Staff Writer, Arts & Letters, Dhaka Tribune.
Rashid Askari (born 1 June 1965) is a prolific writer in Bangladesh writing both in Bangla and English.Which of the following was the first book of poetry written in the English language? ›
The earliest known English poem is a hymn on the creation; Bede attributes this to Cædmon (fl. 658–680), who was, according to legend, an illiterate herdsman who produced extemporaneous poetry at a monastery at Whitby. This is generally taken as marking the beginning of Anglo-Saxon poetry.Who is the writer of the poem Bangladesh? ›
Bangladesh - Bangladesh Poem by Nazim Khan.Who is the famous poet of Bangladesh? ›
Rabindranath Tagore (Famous Poet of Bangladesh)Who is the greatest poet of Bengali literature? ›
Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) was arguably the most revolutionary poets of Bengali Literature. He contributed to every branch of Bengali Literature including poetry.Who is the 1st poet in the history of English literature? ›
Today is the feast day of Caedmon, the first known English poet. As well as being the first named poet in the English literary tradition, he is also a significant figure in the history of people who hate singing in public, people who develop new talents later in life, and of cowherds.Who 1 is known as the father of English poetry? ›
'The Father of English Poetry' (Chapter 8) - Geoffrey Chaucer.Who wrote the first novel written in the English language? ›
The First English Novel
Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe in 1719, and Jonathan Swift published Gulliver's Travels seven years later.
Kazi Nazrul Islam, notable for his activism and anti-British literature, was described as the Rebel Poet and is now recognised as the National poet of Bangladesh.Who is the first woman poet in Bangladesh? ›
Chandrabati was a medieval Bengali poet, widely considered as the first woman poet of Bengali language. She is best known for her women-centered epic Ramayana.
In recognition of the works of Humayun, The Times of india wrote, "Humayun was a custodian of the Bangladeshi literary culture whose contribution single-handedly shifted the capital of Bengali literature from Kolkata to Dhaka without any war or revolution." and entitled him "The Shakespeare of Bangladesh."Sunil ...What is the national poem of Bangladesh? ›
|English: My Golden Bengal|
|Lyrics||Rabindranath Tagore, 1905|
|Music||Gagan Harkara, 1889 (arranged by Samar Das, in 1972)|
|Adopted||10 April 1971 (provisional) 26 March 1972 (official)|
|Preceded by||Pakistan Zindabad|
Kazi Nazrul Islam (Bengali: কাজী নজরুল ইসলাম, pronounced [kaːd͡ʒi nod͡ʒrul ɪslam] ( listen); 24 May 1899 – 29 August 1976) was a Bengali poet, writer, musician, and is the national poet of Bangladesh.Who is the romantic poet of Bangladesh? ›
Nazrul was the Shelley of Bangladesh. Like the romantic poet Shelley or Byron, Nazrul dreamt of making a society which is prejudice free.Who wrote first Bengali novel? ›
Bengali novels occupy a major part of Bengali literature. Though the first Bengali novel was Karuna O Phulmonir Bibaran (1852), the Bengali novel actually started its journey with Durgeshnandini written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1865.Who is the first woman Bengali literature? ›
Chandrabati (Bengali: চন্দ্রাবতী) was a medieval Bengali poet, widely considered as the first known female poet of Bengali language.Why Bengali literature is famous? ›
Bengal has always been a major center of art, culture and literature in India. The soil of Bengal has given intellectuals like Rabindra Nath Tagore, Raja Ram Roy, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Bankim Chandra and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar to the world of literature.What is the oldest English poem? ›
Beowulf, the longest surviving Old English poem, is a good example of this in its own right, but it also shows signs of the rich tradition of heroic poetry that flourished after the settlement of Germanic peoples in Britain from the 5th century onwards.Who is the father of English literature? ›
ASU event honors "father of English literature" Geoffrey Chaucer. The reputation of Chaucer is a worldwide phenomenon, says ASU English prof.Which language has the best poetry? ›
Why is Persian Such a Poetic Language? Tonality, Stress, and Accents in Persian. Persian language is considered among the most poetic languages of the world.
John Dryden is rightly considered as “the father of English Criticism”. He was the first to teach the English people to determine the merit of composition upon principles.Who is the father of Indian English poetry? ›
Nissim Ezekiel is often considered the father of Modern Indian English poetry by many critics. He was honoured with the Padmashri award by the President of India in 1988 and the Sahitya Akademi cultural award in 1983.Who is known as the national poet of England? ›
William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564 died 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist.  He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard").What is the oldest novel in the world? ›
Written 1,000 years ago, the epic story of 11th-Century Japan, The Tale of Genji, was written by Murasaki Shikibu, a woman. Written 1,000 years ago, the Japanese epic The Tale of Genji is often called the world's first novel.What are the four pillars of the English novel? ›
There were four great writers of novel in the 18th century, known as 'The four wheels of English novel'. They were Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, Lawrence Sterne, and Tobias Smollett.What is the first short story written in English? ›
Geoffrey Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' may very well be the first collection of short stories in English literature. Composed in Middle-English verse or prose and written in the early 14th century, Chaucer's collection revolves around a storytelling contest among pilgrims on their way to Canterbury.Who is the father of Bengali fiction? ›
In 1896, Jagadish Chandra Bose, considered to be the father of Bengali science fiction, wrote "Niruddesher Kahini".Who is the father of Bengali language? ›
Remembering Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, The Father Of Bengali Prose' On His Birth Anniversary.What is the oldest Bengali literature? ›
Early Literature: Charyapadas
Charyapada is considered to be the earliest extant work in the field of Bengali, Assamese, Odiya as well as the Maithili Language. It's a collection of Buddhist mystical poems or songs belonging to 8th–12th century.
|Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib||17 April 1971 – 12 January 1972 25 January 1975 – 15 August 1975|
|Khaleda Zia||21 April 1977 – 30 May 1981|
|Rowshan Ershad||11 December 1983 – 6 December 1990|
|Hosne Ara Rahman||10 October 1991 – 9 October 1996|
|Known for||Blogging in Bangladesh|
|Notable work||New Atheism, science, anarchism and religion, homosexuality|
|Spouse||Rafida Ahmed Bonya|
Taslima Nasrin (born 25 August 1962) is a Bangladeshi-Swedish writer, physician, feminist, secular humanist, and activist.What was Bangladesh called in ancient times? ›
During the rule of this dynasty, Bengal, for the first time, achieved a separate identity. Indeed, Ilyas Shah named this province as 'Bangalah' and united different parts into a single, unified territory.What is the old name of Bangladesh in English? ›
In 1947, when British colonial rule ended, a downsized province of Bengal was partitioned into East Bengal and West Bengal. East Bengal was renamed East Pakistan in 1955, and in 1971 it became Bangladesh.What was Bangladesh's original name? ›
Until 1947 Bangladesh was known as East Bengal province and had been part of Great Britain's India holding since the 1700s. In 1947, Britain, in conjunction with India's leading indigenous political organizations, partitioned the Indian colony into India and Pakistan.Who is famous Bangladeshi writer? ›
The most famous living writers include Taslima Nasrin, Mamunul Haque, and Monica Ali. The most famous deceased writers include Sri Chinmoy, Begum Rokeya, and Mahasweta Devi. As of April 2022, 1 new writers have been added to Pantheon including Mamunul Haque.Who is the famous poem writer in English? ›
William Shakespeare is the most famous English writer of all time and probably the best playwright ever born. Maybe the most famous author of all English literature, Shakespeare was a poet, playwright and actor. He is still regarded today as the world's most eminent dramatist.Who is known as poets poet in English literature? ›
Spenser is sometimes called the "poet's poet" because so many later English poets have learned the art of versification from him.Who is the famous Bengali writer? ›
Rabindranath Tagore is the first Nobel prize winner Bengali writer. He won the prize in 1913 for his brilliant poetic expressions. We can still find joy and peace in most of Rabindranath Tagore's books throughout bengali literature.Who is the father of Bangladesh literature? ›
Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore is the best known figure of Bengali literature to the world.
Kazi Nazrul Islam (Bengali: কাজী নজরুল ইসলাম, pronounced [kaːd͡ʒi nod͡ʒrul ɪslam] ( listen); 24 May 1899 – 29 August 1976) was a Bengali poet, writer, musician, and is the national poet of Bangladesh.Which country has the best poetry? ›
The phrase land of poets (Spanish: país de poetas) is commonly used to describe Chile because of its highly-valued poetry tradition. The phrase is most often associated with the fact that Chilean poets have twice obtained Nobel Prize in Literature for their works: Gabriela Mistral in 1945 and Pablo Neruda in 1971.Who is the greatest English poet of all time? ›
William Shakespeare: was born in 1564. He was The Bard of Avon and at the same time a highly revered poet and playwright. In fact, he is considered to be the greatest English writer in the field of drama and literature. England hails him as its national poet, and the world is grateful for his literary contributions.What is the most beautiful short poem ever written? ›
- Fire and Ice by Robert Frost. ...
- Hope by Emily Dickinson. ...
- Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye. ...
- Harlem by Langston Hughes. ...
- Ozymandias by Shelley. ...
- My life has been the poem I would have writ by Henry David Thoreau. ...
- Hug O' War by Shel Silverstein. ...
- Gitanjali 35 by Rabindranath Tagore.
Samudragupta adopted the title of Kaviraja (King of poets), he was an expert ' Veena' player.Who is known as father of poets? ›
Geoffrey Chaucer (/ˈtʃɔːsər/; c. 1340s – 25 October 1400) was an English poet, author, and civil servant best known for The Canterbury Tales. He has been called the "father of English literature", or, alternatively, the "father of English poetry".Who is the king of Bengali literature? ›
The Literary King of Bengal, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, was born on June 26, 1838, and is exceptionally known for his work as a novelist, poet, and journalist.