Literary rebirth from ashes

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 13.01.13

What better occasion to announce the revival of Krittibas than a session paying tribute to Sunil Gangopadhyay at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival?

The session, “Shudhu Kobitar Janyo”, was presented by AKLF 2013 and The Little Magazine at Oxford Bookstore on Friday. Sibashish Mukhopadhyay, an associate editor of the latest version of Krittibas and one of the panellists, said Gangopadhyay often compared Krittibas to the phoenix that rose from its ashes because the groundbreaking poetry journal has had to stop and start several times in its 60-year career.

The magazine, primarily for young poets, started in 1953 with Dipak Majumdar and Ananda Bagchi as editors but it was Gangopadhyay who nurtured it with his undying passion for poetry often using money earned from tuitions to keep it going. Its circulation dropped in 1982 and increased again in 1999. Gangopadhyay’s death on October 23 last year again threatened its journey.

Krittibas will see a new dawn on February 9 at Calcutta Book Fair with Signet Press taking it over.

“Signet Press has offered to sponsor the journal, promising at the same time to give complete freedom to its new editorial team,” said Mukhopadhyay.

Gangopadhyay’s wife Swati will carry the editor’s baton. Writer Dibyendu Palit and young poets like Pinaki Thakur, Srijato, Mandakranta Sen, Angshuman Kar and others — whom Krittibas brought into prominence — will assist her. “Things have actually come a full circle. When the magazine began, D.K. Gupta of Signet Press had volunteered to supply paper for the first three editions,” said Mukhopadhyay.

The ninth Krittibas award for poetic excellence will also be hosted on February 9.

Other panellists at the event, conducted by Antara Dev Sen, included poets Joy Goswami, Subodh Sarkar, Basant Rungta of Srijan, Mandakranta Sen, Sutapa Sengupta and Anjali Das.

Goswami recalled Sunil Gangopadhyay’s ability to shake off mundane emotions like anger at an errant taxi driver in order to keep his mind attuned to poetry. He read out two poems of the late writer, ‘Je amai chene’ and ‘Amai shey chiney chhilo?’, the later being written after such an angry moment.

Sarkar recalled how after a drink or two Sunil would sing Rabindrasangeet loudly, irrespective of where he was. Sarkar read out Indira Gandhir proti, a rather daring poem written by Sunil in his youth. Remembering evenings of poetry reading at the Srijan Rooftop, Rungta read out Hindi and English translations of Sunil’s works, Sengupta read out Bhalobasha and Pawa while Sen read out Kabir bari and remembered her personal association with the senior poet.

Antara concluded the evening by reading two fine English translations of Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Shudhu kobitar janyo and Ekhono somoy achhe

Invitees Nabaneeta Dev Sen and Nirendranath Chakraborty could not attend the event due to illness.

Blueprint for change

The third day of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2013 started with the launch of Pavan K. Varma’s book Chanakya’s New Manifesto: To Resolve the Crisis within India (published by Aleph Book Company). It saw the author embarking on an engrossing discussion about the state of affairs in India with Rudrangshu Mukherjee of The Telegraph.

“Why the word manifesto in the title?” came the opening shot from Mukherjee. Pat came the reply from Varma. “I chose it not because of the 1848 Communist Manifesto, but to sum up what the book wants to do, that is to present a comprehensive blueprint of change.”

Varma went on to explain that his manifesto is definitely not the gospel truth, but people must be blind if they believe there is nothing wrong with the present governance.

He emphasised on the need for the youth to show more interest in the entire political process. Varma said: “Crisis is not about an individual or about a party or is an international issue. It’s not something that will be resolved by the next election. It is systemic in nature and requires a systemic response.”

The book concentrates on various problems plaguing society at present and works on the belief that if Chanakya could come up with a world treatise on statecraft thousands of years ago, then it can be done even today.

One wonders if Varma, who has stepped into politics in 2013, would practise what he has preached in his book. “I will do whatever I can to contribute to a discussion on the changes that I am proposing. I am planning to go on a nationwide tour where I would be addressing university students. The slogan for this book, especially for the youngsters, is: your future is at stake,” said Varma.

Search tune

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu’s debut novel, Faraway Music, is autobiographical at times as it seeks to answer the existential doubt — can we ever return to Calcutta after leaving it.

The book, published by Hachette India, was launched by Congress MP Deepa Das Munshi at Starmark bookstore in South City Mall on January 4. There was another book reading at Byloom store in Hindustan Park in collaboration with Lumbini Park Mental Hospital and Anjali Mental Health Right’s Organisation.

Kundu wanted to share her book with the residents of Lumbini, some of whom were present at Byloom. She also teamed up with designer Nil of Dev R Nil fame to read an extract from her book.

“The book is a journey. It’s a search for home,” explained Kundu. “I left Calcutta 13 years ago for Delhi.”

In Faraway Music, the central characters Pia and Abir meet over Tagore’s song Ami chini go chini tomare at a newspaper office. The residents of Lumbini also sang the song and danced to it, connecting their performance with the book.

Passage to Paraguay

The heart of Paraguay, it’s capital Asuncion and the lives of its people — Susana Gertopan’s novel El Callejon Oscuro is about all that and more. Its central character is a teenage boy who lives in the middle of two clashing cultures (Paraguayan and Jewish) and tries to break racial differences. Such a plot may have been lost to most who don’t understand Spanish, but some enthusiasts in the city decided to take Gertopan’s work to a wider audience.

The Paraguayan Embassy, in association with the Rabindranath Tagore Centre, ICCR, recently launched the translated works of Gertopan, a Paraguayan author of five novels. While her novel El Callejon Oscuro (2010) was translated by Subrata Guha and Sonali Datta into The Dark Alley (Best Books), El Equilibrista (2009), an intense book on love, life and survival, found its English voice through The Tight Rope (Best Books), translated by Roshni Chakraborty, Shinjini Bhattacharya and Soumi Chatterjee.

“This is a serious attempt at bridging the two cultures as different as Paraguayan and Indian. While promoting the country as a tourist destination, we wanted literature to bind us closer. Gertopan is one of the few new authors of our country and I hope her work can get across to the younger generation in India,” said Genaro Vincente Pappalardo, the amabassador of Paraguay in India, as he officially launched the book along with professor Malabika Bhattacharya.

“Gertopan writes in a beguilingly simple language and is very moving and compelling. I am now determined to introduce the two novels and their translations in my class,” said Bhattacharya, who teaches Spanish at Calcutta University and Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.

Reba Som, the regional director of ICCR, and Yash Poddar, the honorary consul of Paraguay in Calcutta, were also present at the launch.

“This is the first time that a Paraguayan literary work has been translated in India. We hope to take this a step further and translate the novels into Bengali and other regional languages throughout the country,” said Poddar.

(Contributed by Sebanti Sarkar, Sreyoshi Dey and Neha Banka)