The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Taslima sticks to thanksgiving

Calcutta, Jan. 14: Taslima Nasreen, whose latest work was banned in Bengal and published after cuts in Bangladesh, hit the city today, ensconced in security provided by the government that proscribed her book.

Nasreen tried to steer clear of controversy, making her displeasure of the Left Front government’s decision to ban Dwikhandita, the third part of Amar Meyebela, known only through monosyllables. Escorted by three siren-wailing police vehicles, she merely said the government’s decision was unexpected.

“I have already said and written a lot, making clear my response to the move,” she said.

She is in Calcutta to release the fourth volume in the Amar Meyebela series in the coming book fair, where it will debut somewhat belatedly as the author appears to have painstakingly revised the manuscript of the sequel to the work that left so much controversy in its wake.

The fourth volume is now on the printing blocks, the publishing house said. “It would have been ready long back and could have been released when the controversy was still raging,” a People’s Book Society spokesperson said.

“Only her penchant for perfectionism, evident in the spate of revisions, delayed us,” he added indulgently, disclosing that the book would be released probably on the very first day of the Calcutta Book Fair, starting January 28.

“She has plans to visit our stall herself on the day of the launch,” the spokesperson added.

The book might not be as controversial in Calcutta as it could be in Dhaka, sources revealed. The fourth part — as planned by the author in consultation with her publishers — would dwell on her life in hiding in Bangladesh, they said.

“The two months she spent in Bangladesh, when fundamentalists were baying for her blood, is likely to form the bulk of the book,” one of them said.

Nasreen had earlier told The Telegraph that the last of the series — the fifth — would dwell on her life in exile. That part is likely to involve Calcutta where brief interludes in that life were spent.

Her diplomacy and tact today were understandable, those around her said. “Though she is not a guest of the government, a part of the third sequel clearly upset a large section of the minority community,” one of them said, referring to the protests that were used as an excuse to ban the book.

“She (Nasreen) will be staying here for about a month and will have to depend on the state machinery for security,” he added.

Nasreen’s itinerary on the first day of her stay here outlined her agenda: meeting publishers and friends who stuck by her during the ban period. She was closeted with representatives of two of her publishers — a second Nasreen title is coming out at the book fair — through the afternoon. She spent the rest of the day visiting friends, one of whom had organised a counter-protest opposing the ban.

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