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Selina Hossain: Seeker of the new

  • Published at 11:36 pm November 11th, 2017
Selina Hossain: Seeker of the new
A true artist is one who would go against all odds to appease his/her creative soul. S/he keeps searching for new clusters of cloud and fresh rays of sunlight. In her literary voyage spanning more than four decades, Selina Hossain has been deftly doing just that, dedicating her life to the world of fiction. A versatile wordsmith working across genres – short fiction, novels, children literature, prose writings and essays – with the aim of sketching the lives of men and women who come mostly from the underprivileged groups. She has an oeuvre that encompasses everything – sorrows and suffering of flood-affected people, the rebellious youth of the Language Movement, the freedom fighters during the Liberation War, people living in enclaves, people fighting with incurable diseases or people shattered by the devastating after-effects of the Sepoy Mutiny. Hossain’s journey started with short fiction. Her first book, a collection of short stories, Utsho theke Nirontor, came out in 1969. She was only 22 back then and yet had the courage to portray the true face of a conservative society. The book was much appreciated by renowned author-critic Humayun Azad who welcomed the fresh new voice of defiance to the world of literature. Utso Theke Nirontor was just the beginning and Hossain never looked back; she kept seeking out the real picture of society with numerous other works of short fiction such as Jolobotee Megher Batash (1975), Khol Korotal (1982), Porojonmo (1986), Manushti (1993), Onura Purnima (2008), Narir Rupkotha (2009), Obelar Dinkhon (2009), Mrityur Nilpadma (2015) and Nunpanter Goragori (2015). The diversity of her subject matter, cultural context and literary techniques varies from one novel or story to another. We are amazed to see that the writer who so candidly writes stories like “Shukher Pithe Shukh” could aptly deliver books on the revolutionary Che Guevara or poet Pablo Neruda as well. Not merely depicting a story, her work does more than that, creating a subtle connection between the readers and the stories that she creates. Even the simplest narrative becomes a fine specimen of art with her magical touch. And we proudly and gladly acknowledge that with writers like Hossain, our short fiction is not a dying art; rather it has a promising and a fulfilling, bright future.
With diverse topics, varied style and the use of simple language, her novels have established her as one of the finest fiction writers in Bengali
Hossain is primarily a novelist and has already published over 30 novels. She has given this genre a new life, a new dimension. With diverse topics, varied style and the use of simple language, her novels have established her as one of the finest fiction writers in Bengali. On one hand she narrates the tale of Kalketu and Phullara while bringing forth the story of Pritilata, the fiery woman who was martyred during an armed battle against the British colonisers. Her novels encompass both past and present, interweaving them into fine stories. Often she makes use of materials from real life events and situations – such as the horrific killing of Shomen Chandra at the hands of fascists, the killing of Munier Choudhury by the collaborators or the loss of her daughter Lara. Some of her well-known novels are Josnay Surjyo Jala (1973), Jalochchwas (1972), Hangor Nodi Grenade (1976), Magna Caitanye Shis (1979), Japita Jiban (1981), Podoshobdo (1982), Neel Moyurer Joubon (1983), Chand Bene (1984), Poka Makorer Ghor Bosoti (1986), Nirantar Ghantadhwani (1987), Ksharan (1988), Katatare Prajapati (1989), Khun O Bhalobasa (1990), Kalketu and Fullora (1992), Bhalobasa Pritilata (1992), Tanaparen (1994), Gaayatree Sondhya (1996), Dipanwita (1997), Juddha (1998) and Lara (2000). One of her finest works is Jomuna Nodir Mushyara (2011). In this novel, though the main subject is poet Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, Hossain acquaints readers with the mystery of many continents. The personal loss of poet Ghalib in the story represents loss and pain felt by generations of poets, writers and artists. One of her latest works, Gachhtir Chaya Nai (2012), captures the sad story of an incurable disease that brings people of different continents under the same circumstances. Hossain also writes essays. She has given nonfictional work focused on history a new dimension, not restricting it to dates and times, rather presenting the story with her unique style of writing. Nirbhoy Koro Hai, Mukto Koro Bhoi and Nijere Koro Joi are among her acclaimed nonfiction works. Her work touches both the native soil and the foreign land, trying to judge art by examining her own experiences. In her essays she has delved into the creative world of such eminent personalities as Abbas Uddin, Mohammad Mansuruddin, Syed Walliullah, Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. Her comment on the Japanese author Osamu Dazai in her essay “Dajai Osamur Shilpo Bhubon” can easily be extended to powerful writers of all countries and all times. For Hossain, writing fiction for young readers is not simply an entertainment. Rather, she deems it a noble way to illuminate young readers with the world of Bengali literature. Her book Golpe Bornomala (1998) presents Bengali language and its vocabulary to the young minds in an interesting way. Her young adult fictions include Onnorokom Jawa, Akashpori, Jokhon Brishti Name, Golpota Shesh hoi na, Mihiruner Bondhura, Nil Tunir Bondhura, Kurkurir Mukhtijudho, Phulkoli Prodhanmontri Hobe and Noditir Ghum Bhengeche. In these novels, she has successfully introduced youngsters to the 1971 Liberation War and the plights of underprivileged children. In Noditir Ghum Bhengechhe she has engaged children in the magical story of a dead river turning alive. The story has a deep symbolic connotation: The young generation would bring forth new life from the very ruins of destruction. This is why Hossain narrates the stories of resurrection to the young readers. First and foremost a feminist, Selina Hossain has also placed underprivileged people and ethnic minorities at the centre of her works. She nurtures an all-encompassing vision. Always the one to tell her stories in a subtle narrative, she never forgets to bring in the sweet chatters of a bird nesting in the branches of our life, and that’s exactly how her voice is young forever.   (Translated by Marzia Rahman) Pias Majid is a young poet, fiction writer and essayist who writes in Bengali. Marzia Rahman is a fiction writer and translator.