At 80, which he reached on May 19, Hasnat Abdul Hye can look back, and certainly feel a sense of pride, accomplishment, and joy for a productive life, where he has not only been a leading bureaucrat of the country, but also a prolific author of distinction.
Abdul Hye was born in 19th May, 1937 in what was then Calcutta. He studied Economics at Dhaka University and the University of Washington and London School of Economics. Later, he studied Development Studies at Cambridge University.
He taught Economics at Dhaka University for a couple of years before joining the Civil Service of Pakistan in 1965. He retired as a full Secretary of the Bangladesh government in 2000.
Of his many achievements, Bangla Academy Award for short stories in 1978, and Ekushey Padak in 1995 for his contribution in Bengali Literature are surely the two major ones.
As a litterateur, Hasnat Abdul Hye has ventured in various genres- novel, short story, travelogue, essays, memoirs, and has received praise for his work in most of these genres. As an author as well as a professional, versatility is a gift that he has been able to make good use of. In the themes, plots, and characters of his novels and short stories, this feature is most noteworthy. From bureaucrats to day laborers to noted intellectuals, he has shown great inventiveness in peopling his fictional universe.
All Those Yesterdays, the second volume of his memoir, gives a very readable account of his encounters and responses to people, places, and events as he went through life. A knack for observation, reflection, erudition and wit and an immense appetite for reading and gaining new experience have made him a distinguished writer of the country.
Some of Hye's notable works include Shuprobhat, Bhalobasha (Good morning, Love), Sultan,Yuvraaj (The Crown Prince), Shantaru O Jalkanya (The Swimmer And The Mermaid), Novera, Indur Dour (Rat Race), Baishakhe Virginia Woolf (Virginia Woolf In The Summer), Xanadu - A Journey, Shaat Diner America (America In Seven Days), Palli Unnayan (Rural Development).
Although Hye has not written any biography nor autobiography, biographical elements are quite apparent in many of his works. In Mahapurush, the protagonist - Syed Belal is a bureaucrat, just like the author himself. The entire plot of this novel revolves around an honest civil servant and his futile battles against society as well as its pre-existing system/s. On the other hand, Hasnat Abdul Hye himself makes cameo appearances as an author in a few novels e.g. Ekjon Aaraj Ali (One Aaraj Ali), Sultan (The King), Novera.
In short, Hasnat Abdul Hye has had a remarkable career with over 70 published works in both Bengali and English, and a lifetime of memories in the civil service, real life adventures, and stories to narrate. Still young at heart and eloquent with that, his readers and fans will surely hope for many more birthdays to look forward to and books to savor.
TS Marin is a lecturer of English at Primeasia University, Bangladesh.