Writer Nabarun Bhattacharya passes away

Nabarun Bhattacharya. Photo: Sumit Das  

Nabarun Bhattacharya, the 66-year-old Bengali writer, who achieved a cult status in his lifetime in Bengal, passed away in a city hospital on Thursday evening. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer over the last few months and his condition deteriorated over the weekend.

He was often described a ‘magic realist’ and compared with Russian anti-establishment writer of 20th century, Mikhail Bulgakov.

The only child of late actor-playwright Bijon Bhattacharya and Magsaysay award-winning writer Mahasweta Devi, Mr. Bhattacharya won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1997 for his novel Herbert, which many critics have called anarchic. It was later made into a film with the same name by Suman Mukhopadhyay.

Born in Baharampur in Murshidabad district, Mr. Bhattacharya was greatly inspired by his father, writer of the legendary play Nabanna on the Bengal famine.

The philosophy of his life, political leanings, and artistic faculties were greatly influenced by the time he spent with famous filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak, a close relative.

Mr. Bhattacharya flowered as a writer in Kolkata, where he relentlessly wrote about those marginalised sections living on the city streets, in slums and dark alleys, using satire, dark humour, and fantasy to telling effect to highlight oppression and exploitation.

His writings very often brought him in conflict with the powers that be, but till the end he remained a fearless voice against power and its misuse.

‘Herbert’, the story of a tragicomic Kolkata protagonist claiming to explore the dead amidst decay and debauchery, also fetched Mr. Bhattacharya the Bankim Puraskar in 1996, but he returned it in protest against the then government’s bid to forcibly acquire farmland for industries in Singur and Nandigram, and let loose what he called ‘state-sponsored violence’ to quell peasant protests.

Staunch critic of Trinamool

However, he later became a staunch critic of the Trinamool Congress government led by Mamata Banerjee for ‘stifling democratic protests’ and ‘civil rights’.

On his bookshelf, co-existing with classics, was literature and writings of Lenin and Marx and a cartoon collage on Mamata Banerjee, which had in 2012 resulted in a professor being sent to jail.

Mr. Bhattacharya was a keen political observer and a staunch supporter of Marxism and a vocal supporter of various radical Leftist movements across the world. “He was a comrade all along and all I can say is ‘Red Salute’ to my comrade,” said musician Kabir Suman, who was a close friend of Mr. Bhattacharya.

In 2003, Mr. Bhattacharya wrote the widely read novel ‘Kangaal Malshaat’ (The War Cry of Beggars), which made the censors see red when made into a film by Mr. Mukhopadhyay in 2012. The novel has sold over 13,000 copies, one of the biggest successes in contemporary Bengali literature.

Using magic realism in his books like Mausoleum and Kangaal Malshaat, Mr. Bhattacharya introduced a strange set of human beings ‘fyataru’ (sound created by kites when they are flown and hinting at someone worthless), a marginal section who unsettle diabolical political structures and evil interests through pinpointed mayhem. They remain his most outstanding creations.

Among his other novels are Lubdhak, Halaljhanda o Onyanyo, Mahajaaner Aayna, Raater Circus, as also the book of poems ‘Ei Mrityu Upotyoka Aamaar Desh Na’ (This valley of death is not my country).

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 12:00:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/writer-nabarun-bhattacharya-passes-away/article6271522.ece

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