Cultural struggle and Akhtaruzzaman Elias | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 15, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 15, 2008

Cultural struggle and Akhtaruzzaman Elias

Discussion on the litterateur's 65th birth anniversary


Akhtaruzzaman Elias

On the occasion of litterateur Akhtaruzzaman Elias' (1943-1997) 65th birth anniversary, Jono-shangskrtiti Moncho, a “politically conscious” cultural organisation, arranged a discussion at the Ramesh Chandra Majumdar Auditorium, Dhaka University (DU) on February 12. Professor Salimullah Khan of Stamford University, Piash Karim of BRAC University, Mohammad Azam of DU and columnist Faruque Wasif spoke at the discussion presided over by Professor Anu Mohammed of Jahangirnagar University.
With only two novels -- Chilekothar Sepai (The Soldier in an Attic, 1986) and Khowabnama (Tale of Dreams, 1996) -- Akhtaruzzaman Elias made an indelible impression on the Bangladeshi readers. With an active political viewpoint, he wrote several short stories and essays, which are also noteworthy addition to our literature.
“Akhtaruzzaman Elias' writing didn't deal primarily with the 'drawing room based culture' of the middle class, that was focused mostly in the post-Liberation War Bangladeshi Literature,” said Mohammed Azam, in his speech. Azam also discussed on Elias' literary style, namely, the 'photographic reality', 'class-consciousness' and 'thematic use of Old Dhaka' in his writings.
Faruque Wasif focused on Elias' efforts to revive the indigenous elements in Bengali literature. “The long colonial past of the subcontinent made us define our literature through the 'other', that is the European style. But the original stream of our literary past was also present side by side through our expressions. Elias' struggled to revive that, to go back to the source,” he said.
Piash Karim said, “Like Terry Eagleton, Edward Said or Antonio Gramsci, I believe in the political reading of a literary text. My interest in Elias evolves through this point of view. He successfully created a post-realistic discourse in his two epic novels. Khizir (one of the major characters in Chilekothar Sepai) with all his madness stands as a counter image, a schizophrenic revolt against the 'rational' Western Enlightenment.”
Salimullah Khan spoke next and Professor Anu Mohammad's speech wrapped up the discussion. Elias' younger brother, noted critic Khalequzzaman Elias also spoke at the programme.

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