Living with Kolkata little magazines
There is little question that Bangladesh has been producing a good number of little magazines for the last few years. Many of them are up to the mark, but people inclined to reading journals from Kolkata cannot really detach themselves from those. The Dhaka literati who once had few bookshops, like Marieta at Dhaka stadium market and nothing like the present Aziz Market for foreign books and periodicals can surely recollect the many issues of Bijnapan Parba edited by Rabia Ghosh. Numerous novel thoughts on literature enriched the issues. Shibnarayan Roy, Sumantra Chattopadhyaya and Subimal Mishra were among the regular contributors to the magazine.
I am sure many present-day Bangladeshi writers of serious note possess the Bijnapan Parba issues on Amiyabhushan Mazumder, Jean-Paul Sartre and Hasan Azizul Haque. Was there any such voluminous and worthy issue on Hasan earlier? The interviewers included Shahaduzzaman and Nurul Kabir from Bangladesh too. Sanatkumar Saha and Mohammad Kamal of these parts are also notable.
Can anyone pick up invaluable issues of Ebang Mushayera on Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Hamlet, Hans Christian Andersen at Aziz supermarket today? I found some copies at New Market bookshops also. When I found some issues on Lokenath Bhattacharya, I was amazed at the wealth of material on this less known, less popular, less read writer who certainly contributed hugely to the growth of Bangla fiction. Subal Samanta, editor of this little magazine, deserves a big salute from the whole Bangla language readership. I came across Lokenath's Korecho Eki Sonyasi in this volume first.
The special issue on novels was a happy read. Thoughts on novels by contemporary West Bengal novelists such as Annada Shankar Roy, Amiyabhushan Mazumder, Bimal Kar, Mahashweta Devi and the above mentioned Lokenath, Mati Nandi, Shyamal Gangopadhayaya, Amalendu Charavarty, Debesh Roy, Subimal Mishra, Sadhan Chattapadhyay and Abhijit Sen are special features here.
Publishing special issues on individual authors has become a common trend for many of the little mags in Kolkata. Uttaradhikar (ed by Amit Das) not of Kolkata but of north Dinajpur, highlighted themes that has helped it win the love of serious readers. I recall the issue on Amiyabhusan Mazumder. The two consecutive issues on this recently deceased writer who dominated serious Bangla literary scene for about four decades are a rich source of knowledgeable, especially for Bangladeshi readers as we have little way of knowing them.
Fans of Madhusudan, Saratchandra, Tarashankar, Rajshekhar Basu, Satinath, Jibanananda, Syed Mujtaba Ali, Bimal Kar and Saradindu will never forget the issues of Korok on these writers. A special issue of Korok is generally published on the eve of the Kolkata Book Fair every year. Almost all such issues include critiques on the works of the writers focused on, writings that illuminate their personal lives, reminiscences by acquaintances as well as literary figures and also comprehensive information about their biography and works. I can recall the Korok issue on Kazi Nazrul Islam which carried some unbelievably rich pieces on Nazrul by some West Bengali writers.
Few special issues have dared to focus on Ashim Roy, so unknown a writer but so worth remembering! Jalark published two issues on this almost forgotten writer, though it is worth mentioning that Ashim Roy could not draw many readers during his lifetime. The first issue on Ashim Roy included 'Ashim Roy's Dairy (first phase)' along with some critiques by Ujjal Roy (his son), Nazrul Islam, Amitav Dasgupta and Pradumna Mitra. To Ashim readers, no doubt, the issue is a collector's item. And then, with great pleasure they found the second issue on Ashim which included writings on his individual novels --- Abohomankal, Gopaldev, Ekoda Trene, Dwitiyo Janmo, Rokter Hawya, Deshodrohi. The article on Nababbari was riveting. Is Nababbadi the only Bangla novel that tells of slavery that existed in Bengal till even British colonial times?
Afif Fuad's Diba Ratrir Kabya has also been satiating the thirst of many Bangla literature readers. The issue published in 1998 that was given over largely to Syed Waliullah created a deep impression on Waliullah enthusiasts. Essayists like Parthapratim Bandopadhyaya, Tapodhir Bhattacharya or Tushar Pandit have done well on this rather complex writer of the Bangla language. Diba Ratrir Kabya published three special issues on the novel, comprising some thousand-plus pages with writings by serious authors and critics. The special issues on Dipendranath Bandopadhyay or Saroj Bandopadhyay or on thoughts like 'Criticism' or 'Tebhaga Movement' clearly targeted intellectual readers.
The Parikatha has not reached many readers in Bangladesh. Debabbrata Chattapadhyaya, the editor, has published two issues on Bangla novels one on the novels of West Bengal and the other on novels from Bangladesh. The first issue included 33 novelists and to my surprise I discovered there articles on Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Savitry Roy and Sulekha Sanyal, the unread novelists. The next issue on Bangladeshi novels included Kando Nodi Kando, Janoni, Padma Meghna Jamuna, Karnafuly, Sangsaptak, Surya Dighal Bari, Warish, Barafgola Nodi, Rifle Roti Awrat, Ghor Mon Janala, Shesh Panpatro, Khoabnama, Hangor Nodi Grenade, Kanchangram, Jolorakshash, Chhapannohajar Bargomile, Urukku and Janma Janmantar.
When Dostoyevsky was included on the list of focal ideas by Samarura Byatikrom, it first sounded like a somewhat impossible attempt by the journal. But gradually readers came round to the idea. At the Kolkata Book Fair of 2002 the magazine first zeroed in on this internationally acclaimed writer and over the next three years it brought out three more, all enriched with materials on and by Dostoyevsky.
Can Jibanananda readers forget the Anustup issue on the poet? When the established periodicals could not undertake such an initiative on the birth centenary of this great writer of Bengal, Anil Acharya could. So well organized the issue! So highly charged the write-ups! Bivav also brought out a 700-odd pages issue on Jibanananda. It seems to me that the Jibanananda issues of Anustup, Vivav and Korok added many new dimensions along with much new information and many new explanations on this great poet-novelist-short story writer.
While talking about Anustup I cannot but recall its Puja issue of 1405 B.S. That included some 150 odd pages on Sanjoy Bhattacharya and his literary magazine Purbasha. Certainly this issue contributed hugely to research on Sanjoy Bhattacharya, the meritorious and experimental writer now left in oblivion.
The same issue of Anustup published Ohinokul by Shahzad Firdous. The novel inspired me to read more by him and I discovered a powerful writer in our language. Shahzad started with Byasa, which was published in Bangladesh, in English translation by Prof. Kabir Chowdhury, very recently. A-e-Ojoger, a little mag, published a special issue on Shahzad in 1999.
Porichay, established by poet Sudhindranath Datta, brought out a special issue on its founder in 2001. Baishakhi's Gopal Halder issue, Amritolok's Italo Calvino issue, Ebong Ei Somoy's Bakhtin issue, Kotharup's Sulekha Sanyal issue, Kari-O-Komal's Banaful issue and issues of Kabitirth are many prestigious and precious examples that are worth mentioning.
Once there had been Choturango, established by Humayun Kabir and Ataur Rahman. Then Jijnasa, edited by Shibnarayan Roy, added much to this trend. In this row, in the eighties of the last century Protikshan began to publish out-of-trend novel ideas and writings. During the 1990s, we began to observe the appearance of some more and before the century turned over, the number of such magazines and their issues created a new horizon to exhibit past and present writers from home and abroad as well as new thoughts, literary trends and social movements.