The novel that is yet to be written
Prasanta Mridha Arts & Letters

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It won’t be an exaggeration to say a thousand years of struggle for freedom culminated in the nine-month-long war in 1971. It is from this point of view that the liberation war is considered the most defining historical event in the life of our nation, and rightly so. But when it comes to literature, question should arise if the subject of the war has been dealt with in its entirety in our literature, specifically in our fiction. Is there a novel, a masterpiece that can be said to have captured not just one aspect but all the different aspects that every war comes with? 

We have quite a good number of poems but how many of them have become parts of our everyday conversations? Or just after the independence when our theatre rejuvenated a new life in that era, how many of them actually depicted the totality of the war and its values? If one talks logically, without resorting to nationalistic emotions, s/he has to draw the conclusion that our literature, especially our fiction, has failed to portray the war in its totality. 

Is the gradual disintegration of the state and societal values after independence the cause behind this? Or is it that our freedom struggle has failed to generate the values that we thought would be part and parcel of our national life. 

After independence, democracy gave way to dictatorship and military rule. 

On a social level, people’s basic rights were being violated. The rich-poor gap widened. Promises of the war were far from being fulfilled. Struggle of the general population for a better life went on even after independence. Social values waned and the spirit of freedom dissipated. The state even failed to ensure women’s security, leave alone economic equality for them. It did not offer the young generation any values or promise that might guide them towards a constructive social and political life. 

However, due to frequent changes in the government, the middle class was the biggest beneficiary. The section of the middle class that coped up with the changes that came with a new dictator rose through the ranks and became rich. But what did the general people get, those who had nothing during the war and who had fought valiantly in the hope of a better country? Frustration and deprivation were what the lakhs of starving people gained. Their importance in the making of a nation, however, is realised only during the elections when their votes are crucial to forming a government. 

Our literature shows the same symptoms of failure. It hasn’t produced works that individually offer the epical vastness of those nine months, reading which the later generations will get a sense of their true place in history through an accurate picture of the war that laid the foundation of our identity.

Yet, our main achievement lies in short stories. Most of our writers have written considerable good stories. Shushanto Majumdar, a fiction writer, once wrote, “Both the younger and older generations of writers have written stories on the biggest achievement of our history. Artistically successful short stories have enriched our fiction. On the other hand, the emotions regarding the birth of a new nation have marred literary potential of many stories.” Although this quote speaks of the success, it also points to some marks of failure.

All in all, our fiction has yet to give us that novel which could be the strongest basis of our identity and the strongest expression of our solidarity against the anti-liberation forces which are on the rise in today’s society. Whereas the liberation war has injected new blood into our literature. If language movement has brought life to our psyche, the liberation war has given a force to that life. The subject of war, therefore, deserves to be treated in its entirety, not in fragments. 

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