Ekram Kabir

Shwanirbachito Golpo
Mizanur Rahman Shelley
Shuchipatra, Taka 150, pp. 168

Creative writing gurus say title of a novel of a book always matters to the readers. If a book has an attractive or meaningful title along with good content, the book has all the chance to be gleefully accepted among the audience, the readers as well as critics. Many opine the title tells half the story of a book, even a collection of short stories. Take Jhuma Lahiri’s forst collection of short stories, The Interpreter of Maladies, for example. Lahiri names her work after one of her stories of the book. Did that harm other stories? Have the readers lost interest in reading other stories. Not really. Lahiri got an award for that book.
It’s in this backdrop, the title of Mizanur Rahman Shelley’s Shwanirbachito Golpo has a lot of room for critical analysis. Shwanirbachito Golpo means Self-selected Stories. The writer, among many of his stories, has selected a few stories for accommodating in this collection of short stories.
However, Shelley’s selection dates as early as 1965. That show he has been writing stories for a long long time, since his school days. Shilpee [The Artists], the last story of the book, deals with a Buddha sculpture being found after many many years, after many generations. In this story, the writer tries to show how the artefacts are valued by all in all ages, not the artist. This story is about tragic life of an artist. Worth reading, but the use of English words may cause annoyance to the readers.
But one story, Rokto [Blood], written on 21 February 1967, seems writer’s dejection on how one’s mother tongue is being lost among the children of those who have chosen to settle abroad, especially in the western countries. This story is loaded with English words. The overuse of English words could be one of Shelley’s techniques to show how a Bengali father sadness at his son’s understanding of Bengali language.
Almost half of his 29 stories are written before 1971, the year when Bangladesh became a free country. Shelley writes in the introduction that he started writing short stories back in 1950 when he was in school. Pretty interesting! He started writing when struggle to save Bengaliness and upholding Bangladesh in the face of a tyrant regime was in the air. It was also a time when writers shoed utmost passion in producing literature and art. Novelists and writers, almost all, wrote in a language which was not how people spoke. They used ‘shadhu bhasha’ or a diction that descended from great names such as Bangkim and Madhushodon. The pre-independence Bangladeshi writers were immensely influenced by these stalwarts. It seems Shelley is one of them. Shelley’s language is also influenced by that school, making his stories difficult for the progeny to read in one go.
For example, he begins his story Oporup Shantrash [Beautiful Violence] as: “Mritoprai diner bera bhengey chandal rat nemey elo”. In English, the sentence should read: Rude night descends by breaking the fence of the dying day. This is not all. The whole book is full of such weighty diction, making his work quite time-consuming to read.
But one must agree his diction is high poetry. That’s a good piece of news for literary enthusiasts. Writing fiction in poetic style is not seen these-days. This collection of short stories should be education for the new writers in Bangladesh. They could taste how it feels to read fiction written in poetic diction.
Shelley’s stories are of a special kind. Sometimes, they evoke a deep sense of morality. For example, in Dushshopner Deshey [In the Land of Nightmares], the main character coming to Bangladesh from Paris, Saif, doesn’t hesitate to shoot a man who have kept his own niece as a concubine for a long. The story ends there. Shahana’s tyrant uncle falls down when Saif fires a bullet at him. The story, however, doesn’t tends to say what happened to Saif after killing Chowdhury Uncle. Was Saif convicted of murder? Or what?
This is what happens in almost all Bengali short stories, keeping the reader guessing what happens after the ending. It possibly came from Tagore. His formula for short stories is: “ends but doesn’t end”. The conflict of the plot actually doesn’t get solved in the end. On the contrary, English short stories are written differently. They begin with conflicts, has a climax and finally there’s a consummation.
Many of Shelly’s characters are from the Bengali diasporic community. But the actions take place in Bangladesh. The writer possibly observed the diasporic community very deeply during his years abroad.By judging the merits of Shwanirbachito Golpo, one would certainly hope Shelley becomes serious about writing a novel, a whole book of single story with his poetic diction. He is seen spending a lot of time writing columns in the newspapers. Well, sometimes, novels are better reads than newspaper columns.

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