A panel discussion on the novel Babu Bangladesh! by late Dr Numair Atif Choudhury was held in the AKSB Auditorium of Bangla Academy at 2.45pm on the first day of Dhaka Lit Fest this year.
The panel members were Nadeem Zaman, Saad Z Hossain, Rahul Soni, and the moderators included Kanishka Gupta and Andaleeb Chowdhury. All the members of the panel were familiar with and had, somehow or the other, assisted Numair on this novel.
Babu Bangladesh! was published after the author’s untimely demise in September, 2018. The novel is set in Bangladesh, 2028, following the life of Babu -- who is considered to be a leader of the generation. The panelists discussed the clever use of magic realism and fantasy in the novel.
Kanishka Gupta, literary agent, author, consultant and publishing commentator, was Numair’s agent. He talked about Numair being a perfectionist, who was never satisfied with what he wrote. “The novel is a literary maze,” he said, “where it is hard to distinguish between the truth, half-truth, and fabrications.”
Rahul Soni, the editor of Babu Bangladesh!, from HarperCollins Publishers India, talked about his time editing a book after the author had passed, and admitted that there are parts of the novel he wishes he could have worked on with Numair. “I kind of object to the fact that we immediately slot this (novel) into magic realism,” he stated. “I think it’s much more than that.”
Andaleeb Chowdhury, lecturer at Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB), had been Numair’s colleague there. Andaleeb shared her views on the novel: “He has taken elements that are so everyday and so uniquely us, and he has turned it into literature."
Nadeem Zaman, an author and teacher in the English department of St Mary’s College of Maryland, talked about growing up and losing touch with Numair Atif Choudhury, and eventually reconnecting. He explained how he had pushed Numair to show him his work, which the author had been working on for over a decade.
Also present on the panel was Saad Z Hossain, author of novels like Escape from Baghdad! and Djinn City. He also shared his opinions on the novel and the author, saying: “He had a level of technical skill and craftsmanship, which probably comes from writing consistently for many years.”
The session ended with a Q/A session with the audience.