Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Social Context and Significance of Bengali Research Books on Canadian Literature

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Social Context and Significance of Bengali Research Books on Canadian Literature

Bengali-speaking readers are not less interested in world literature. The Bengali reader’s main hope for the enjoyment of world literature is through translation into Bengali and writing in English, a language acquired under the British colonial rule. As the number of Bengalis who have mastered any other language is very small, the opportunity of reading from the original works of those languages is limited to a few people.

Due to modern communication system and increase in financial capacity, all kinds of communication of Bengalis with all parts of the world has become easier than before. Bengalis have now reached every corner of the world in business and career, in receiving and imparting higher education, in search of fortune and migration. In almost every country. As a result, the interest of Bengalis to know about these countries, people, nature, social and political situation, economy, religion, lifestyle and social history has increased more than before. This interest is not only for Bengalis traveling to different countries of the world or more than one crore Bengalis living abroad. Also the relatives and well-wishers left by them in the Bengali mainland. They are eternally interested to know what kind of environment and people they are living in abroad. And their number is huge.

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However, the number of books and publications published in Bengali language about different countries of the world is small except for a few countries to satisfy their thirst for knowledge. Publications on the literature of those countries are more limited.

The history of Bengali immigration to Canada, one of the most beautiful countries in the world, dates back to the 1950s. seven decades However, millions of Bengalis have migrated in the last two decades. The number of Bengalis in Canada is steadily increasing with the arrival of professionals and students and their family members. At the same time, there is a growing interest in Canadian society and life among immigrant Bengalis and in their homeland.

In this context, an important step towards quenching the thirst of literature-hungry Bengalis to know about the life and psyche of the people of Canada is the painstaking research book ‘Kanadiya Sahitya: Dissociative Thought’ by a Bengali immigrant to Canada and researcher Subrata Kumar Das.

It does not seem that there has been such a representative work on Canadian literature in Bengali before this book, which was recently published in this year’s ‘Amar Ekushe Granthmela’ in Bangladesh.

In addition to the two invaluable chapters at the beginning of the book entitled ‘Preface’ and ‘Canadian Literature: An Introduction’, two chapters entitled ‘The Taste of World Literature in Canadian Literature’ and ‘Context: Canlit’ are very significant.

Because, how the literature of Canadian writers has become a reflection of world literature, Subrata has very logically presented in the first chapter with the quotations and relevant information of the writings and speeches of the writers of this country. It is well known that Canada is a country of immigrants, apart from the mention at the very beginning of the Canadian brochure published by the central government. With the exception of a few indigenous peoples, all Canadians are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. It is for this reason that the once-immigrant, now-a-days Canadian writers have portrayed their motherland and fatherland. And in this way, the society, life and human feelings of almost every region of the world have enriched Canada’s literature and turned it into world literature through these writers. Canada’s Bengali writer Subrata has been able to highlight it with great skill.

He rightly said, “Perhaps sometimes the writer himself was born in Canada, but his parents were from different countries. And so it is often seen that some writer searches for the soil of his ancestors. The image of that house, the smell of that soil comes up in their works. And this is the generosity of Canada that Canada does not hesitate to adopt the image of a different house, the smell of a different soil. Not administratively, not from a literary point of view.”

And in the ‘Canlit’ chapter, the identity of Canada’s literature has emerged in a new distinct vocabulary over time, he has highlighted the historical background in a collection of brief but essential information.

The analysis of twenty-eight Canadian writers and their works in different chapters from various points of view in simple language is very lively and interesting. Bengali language literary researchers will discuss its literary value.

I would like to mention only separately, the first part of the book is about the ‘Preface’. This book is an invaluable asset to the chapter in which the researcher Subrata discovers the gateway to Canadian literature as slowly as he discovers a new continent, with the companionship and advice of Canadian librarians and literary lovers and, above all, the constant urging of his own inquisitive mind. This ‘Preface’ not only introduces the uniqueness of a researcher’s research method, but also serves as a beacon for the following readers and researchers interested in the literature of Canada or any country and language of the world, which is not known to the Bengali majority. Encourages reading, researching and writing about the literature of new countries and languages.

Although a research book, Subrata Kumar Das’s style of presentation in colloquial language makes the book easy to understand. Keeping the traditional research essay free from the monotony of the lesson makes each episode interesting and enjoyable.

I feel it will not be out of place to mention the points which may appear to be lacking in this book at first.

A quick look at the bibliography reveals that many of Canada’s leading and internationally best-known authors do not appear on this list or in the bibliography. For example, Alice Munro, the first Canadian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondatji and MG Vasanjee, Rohintan Mistry and Ian Martell, who won the Man Booker Prize. Even the popular young poet Rupi Kaur.

At first sight the absence of these authors in the book may seem disappointing. But Subrata’s explanation of their absence in the ‘Preface’ is very logical and acceptable. He cited two reasons. Firstly: these well-known writers are at least somewhat familiar to the wider Bengali readership. He basically wants to look at some of the main writers who are unknown and unknown to the Bengali reader but who are dear to the reader in this country and have been awarded with various prestigious awards. Second, the five- to 12-page introduction and discussion of the works of the authors selected in this volume is inadequate for those of Canada’s leading authors. Hopefully, Subrata said he intends to work with these writers in detail.

Another issue is the absence of Aboriginal writers in Canada. Not only an Aboriginal writer, but also a Canadian writer writing about Aboriginal life and society. Europeans settled in what is now Canada some four hundred years ago. But tribals have lived here for thousands of years before that. The presence of some literature on their life, thought and culture of the time and on the conflicts, relations and long-term reactions of the Europeans with the Aborigines after the arrival of the European settlers would no doubt have made the book more representative.

The book ‘The Idea of Canada: Letters to a Nation’ by former Governor General of Canada and educationist David Johnstone describes his self-identity in his letter to an Aboriginal boy. Therein lies the great distance between the understanding of a boy representing a new generation of indigenous people and David, the writer representing the European settlers, living in the same land for more than four hundred years. The presence of Himalayan wall between the relations of both societies. In the introduction to the book, the author mentions the separation of other cultures with the Aboriginal people of Canada, but can the discussion about Canadian literature be complete without highlighting the literature written about this distance, mistrust and coexistence?

However, since the title of this book ‘Literature of Canada: Separate Thoughts’ makes it clear that the research book is not a comprehensive overview of Canadian literature, but separate thoughts, the author can be excused. Rather, he can be thanked especially for the fact that by writing books on Canadian literature in Bengali, he is helping to stimulate Bengali interest in all kinds of literature representing the different languages and cultures of Canada apart from the English and French speakers.

A reference to a personal experience may not be out of place here. About a year after I joined the Canadian Embassy in Bangladesh as an information officer, in March 1993, budget cuts by the Canadian central government and the Foreign Office led to a sudden decision to lay off some diplomats and local staff and to abolish the embassy library. I was given the task of removing 1,300 books from the library within two days. While distributing the books among my colleagues at the embassy, I personally selected fifteen books for my own collection. But at the time of book selection, due to not being familiar with the writings of any leading Canadian writer, all the books were written about Canadian society, history and personalities, except for a storybook by Alice Munro and a couple of novels and poems. Non-fiction. Because, there was no English or Bengali book like this Bengali book by Subrata Kumar Das on Canadian literature which could help in selecting the author.

Bengali readers no longer have that problem. This research book is more than a bibliography and bibliography of Kannada literature for Bengali. In addition to the 28 authors mentioned, the ‘Foreword’ section and the chapter ‘World Literary Flavors in Canadian Literature’ contain references to many other Canadian authors and their works. Which for the time being is enough to orient the inquisitive reader.

A significant aspect of this research book is the importance of the book to the Bengali immigrants in Canada apart from the Bengali literature lovers and wider readers of their own territory. Most of the Bengalis coming to this country are professionals, students and their family members. Most are highly educated. Their first three to five years after arrival are spent focusing on accommodation, employment and children’s education. At that time and especially, after settling in the new settlement country, they need food for the soul. Besides entertainment, travel and sports in leisure, interest in literature is renewed. Most literary enthusiasts focus on Bengali language literature collected from the motherland and recently online magazines and works.

But this research book is invaluable as a guide to choosing the right books to study the literature and culture of their new home country. The book will serve as a first but important stepping stone for the assimilation of Bengali immigrants to Canadian culture, along with stimulating the taste of Kannada literature. It will be helpful to proceed on the path of familiarity with the works of the mentioned authors.

Because of this research book’s role as a connector in assimilation with the culture of Canada, a country of many languages and races, I think it is necessary for every Bengali immigrant to Canada to read this book.

Welcome to Subrata Kumar Das, a new voice on Canada’s literary horizon.

Scarborough, Canada

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