December 5, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Asia Uncensored: Muffled Voices: Who holds the onus of being THE Bangladeshi writer?

2 min read

by Rheea Mukherjee, Blogs Editor, Kitaab

Ikthisad Ahmed sticks firm to his views as he eloquently expresses the hum and tune of Bangladeshi writing: “Ours is a nation of struggle, ours is a culture of struggle. Bangladeshi writers, regardless of the language in which they write, have acute senses of justice, anguish and humanity. We burrow deep to find the revolutionary spirit inherent to us, and extract beauty from those wells.”

Sharbari Zohra Ahmed is not as convinced and believes that those of Bangladeshi descent can at best provide a diluted sense of the identity. Moreover, she believes, there is the need to be recognized as writers without the frills and thrills of Bangladeshi exotica. She lays down her opinion with thick confidence: “When I was starting out, agents and editors were disappointed and unwilling to accept the fact that I was not exotic in my style or interested in the ‘displaced immigrant ‘ theme. One actually said to me, ‘Can you write more about being Bangladeshi and American at the same time?’ The problem was that I was not culturally conflicted enough. My Bangladeshi and American identities were not constantly at odds. That feeling of being an ‘other’ happened more powerfully after 9/11, when being Muslim and American was deemed mutually exclusive. But I was not conflicted by it.”

What role, then, does Bangladeshi writing have in a publishing world that either slots literature as authentic translations, or westernized exotisized South Asian literature? Is the roar of revolution and the country’s immense history owed more attention and regard from the outside world? Kitaab’s Asia Uncensored presents two positively compelling sides of the story, if not to persuade you to one side, then to keep you informed of the larger picture, and the grey strokes of literature, nationalism, and identity.

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