Novelties in Nazrul’s Fiction
Subrata Kumar Das
Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) is mostly acclaimed and remembered for his poetical works though his prose is no less significant. Due to his huge popularity as a rebellious poet, he began to write a huge amount of poetry which resultantly deployed him in different social and literacy activities, even in politics. As a result his prose works went out ofthe sight of the literati of the then Bangali society. Along with his fictional works, his non-fictional writings are also very noteworthy. He wrote only three novels and nineteen short stories. If we have a close reading of his novels and stories, we will see that Nazrulimported a great many elements which were inconceivable in Bangla fiction till then.
It many sound new but it is a fact that Nazrul started his authorial life as a short story writer. His first specimen of publication is ‘Baundeler Atmakahini’ (An Autobiographical Account of a Vagabond) which came out in 1919. By the year 1920 hewrote all the stories of Bathyar Daan (Offerings of Pain) and Rikter Bedon(The Sorrows of a Destitute). Meanwhile he was also writing his first novel Bandhonhara(Free from Bonds) which was then being serially published in the periodicals. By now his poem ‘Bidrohi’ (The Rebel) got published and brought him much acquaintance. He could touch the zenith of love and popularity of the Bangla-speaking readership. It so happened that he was even put behind the bars for writing ‘Anondomoyir Agomone’ (On the Coming of the Goddess of Joy). Being released from the jail he began to deliver speeches on different political and social issues and at last competed in the Central Legislative Assembly of India. After a crushing defeat in that election he decided to subside. In 1926 Nazrul went to Krsnanagar and resumed his efforts in writing fictional proses.
In this period Nazrul wrote Mrityukshudha(The Hunger of Death) and Kuhelika(The Mystery). It is controversial whether he wrote Mrityukshudhaor Kahelikafirst though both of them were being published in the literary journals at the same time. The first installment of Kuhelikacame in Naorojin Ashar 1334 B.S, whereas that of Mrityukhudhain Saogatin Agrahayan of the sameyear. Serialization of Kuhelikawas also finished earlier, though Mrityakhudhawas published in book form some one year and a half before Kuhelika. Later on he again returned to short stories. His lastvolume among his fictional works is Sheulimala(The Wreath of Sheuli) that comprises only four stories. Along with these three novels and eighteen short stories, Nazrul’s another story ‘Boner Papiya’ has recently been discovered.
From the very outset of Nazrul’s writing fiction, we can observe the touch of newness. ‘Baundeler Atmakahini’ is the first short story ever written by any Muslim writer. The content of the story is related with a soldier’s life which is also very novel in the history of Bangla fiction. His narrative technique also differed from that ofhis contemporaries. In ‘Hena’, he takes soldier-life as his subject again, though the setting is completely different: different places of French, Kabul and Beluchistan. Stories like ‘Bathyar Daan’, ‘Ghumer Ghore’, ‘Rikter Bedon’ and his novel Bandhonhara are also based on soldier-life. Before Nazrul this was quite unknown to Bangla fiction-reading public.
It is worthy to mention that inall the above pieces, we find autobiographical elements hugely. Nurul Huda of Bandhonhararesembles Kazi Nazrul Islam to a great extent. It is true that before Bandhanharawe have got Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s (1876-1938) SrikantaPart I (1917), a very significantone in the realm of Bangla autobiographical novels. Moreover, we had got Gazi Mianer Bostani (1899) by Meer Mosharraf Hossain (1847-1912) in which the writer utilized autobiographical elements. But Nazrulis the pioneer in advocating the philosophy of writing autobiographical novels.
Nazrul is also a worthy instance to mention regarding portrayal of Muslim society in Bangla fiction. Surely infictions of his Muslim and Hindu predecessors, Muslim society got portrayed, but most of them were merely about the advocacy of Islam and moral teaching. And Nazrul is unique from this very point also. His first novel Bandhonharais beyond of that tradition. Moreover, it exposed Nazrul’s disbelief in God. Such expression was also quite new in Bangla novel by then. Similar attitude is also observed in his next novel Mrityukhudhawhere Mejhabou declares while witnessing the death of Sejhabou and her son, ‘God, I won’t remember you.’ Moreover, Nazrul is the first Muslim writer who dealt with love in his novels.
In the early fictions by Nazrul the other significant characteristic is the use of diary and letters. The story ‘Rajbandir Chithi’ is itself a letter, as the novel Bandhonharais a collection of letters i.e. an epistolary in nature. Regarding his use of diary, stories like ‘Hena’ and ‘Rikter Bedon’ are most worthwhile. Though Bangla novel witnessed epistolary form in the 19th Century, the genre did not prove that much successful .
Moreover, a close reading of Bandhonharashows that in this novel he did not give forth any story line in the ordinary sense. Many components of the story of the novel remain unanswered: Whom did Nurul love? – Mahabuba or Sophia or both of them? Why did he join the battle? – To avoid Mahabuba as his wifeor to sacrifice himself for the nation? Did he join willingly or Mahbuba compelled him to go? Was Sophia happy for the break-up of their possible marriage? All these questions remain in the novel without any reasonable answer. We can observe that this novel is not a detective one in vein. Such a mysterious setting in non-detective novels is a feature available in the novels much ahead of Nazrul’s era in the eighties and nineties of the twentieth century of Latin American and European novels.
Psychoanalysis is another feature in Narul’s early fictions. In BandhonharaNazrul utilized it in such a way that it became distinguished along with the other psychoanalytic novels like Chokher Baali(1903) and Chaturango(1916) by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). Rabindranath narrated incidents along with analysis but in Nazrul a stream of thoughts only takes the upper hand.
Now, let us consider Nazrul’s linguistic features in his fiction. From the very beginning we observe that Nazrultried to use the everyday common language in his novels and stories. In the stories of the first phase he used Arabic and Persian words abundantly. In ‘Rakshushi’ he felt very competent in using dialect. ‘Rakshushi’ which is written in the dialect of the Bagdi society of Birbhum should be evaluated as a pioneer one in the story dom of Bangla literature. Some one may refer to Pyarichand Mitra’s (1814-1883) Alaler Gharer Dulal(1857) in this connection, but we should not forget that the author of that book could not be able to use it in a very effective and successful way. The use ofdialect in ‘Rakshushi’ later on inspired Nazrul is using the same in Mrityukhudhaalso. We get some more stories where Nazrul used dialect: dialect of Mymensing in ‘AgniGiri’ and dialect of Eastern Bengal in ‘Jiner Badsha’.
Portrayal of ‘untouchable’ characters isalso another feature in Nazrul’s fiction. His story ‘Rakshushi’ is the first instance of this sort. The Bagdi girl of ‘Rakshushi’ is untouchable in regard to caste. On the other hand the Mejhabou and her family are untouchable inregard to financial status. It is true that before Nazrul we get the ‘untouchable’ in Rabindranath’s Gora (1910) or in Saratchandra’s Bamuner Meye(1920) or Pollisomaj(1916) or Denapawna(1923) along with a good number of their stories. But Nazrul’s credit is that he portrayedthose characters from within them unlike their predecessors. What more Nazrul did is he used the language that the characters themselves used.
Mrityukshudhais a delineation of a Christian society also. In this relation we must mention that Fulmoni O Karunar Bibaran(1852) by Hanna Catherine Mullens which was the first novelistic enterprise in Bangla literature was also about people fromChristian society. But that was merely a morality story in vein. Nazrul has given life to those Christian people.
Mrityukshudhais distinct for other reasons also. Ansar, the protagonist of the Novel, is the first communist character is Bangla fiction. Moreover Mejhabou, another very significant character of the novel, is the first woman who left home yet after having kids. Saibalini of Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s (1838-1894) Chandrashekhar(1875), Charulata of Rabindranath Tagore’s Nastoneer(1901), Achala of Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s Grihadaha(1920) also left their homes, but they had no children. Kumu, who is another example ofthis sort, left home but later on returned there. Anna ofLeo Tolstoy’s (1828-1910) Anna Karenina(1874-6, Eng. Trans. 1876) left her home having child but that was for her love. On the other hand Nazrul took his Mejhabou out of home to make her a true human.
Kuhelika, which was published around the same years of Mrityukshudha could not imprint similar creativity. Inthis novel what Nazrul wanted to do is to expose a specific ideology which is, to speak true, is the delineation of Nazrul’s literary achievement. During this period Nazrul had married a Hindu woman and had to undergo multifarious troubles for his being a Muslim. In the meantime the communal riot between Hindus
and Muslims broke out in 1926. Being a great soul, Nazrul did not suffer severely form his identity crisis but he had to observe it severely. Kuhelika exposes the massage of coming across that crisis. The destination of Jahangir is not Mohammedanism rather it is Indianism. Nazrul’s Jahangir is the first Muslim terrorist revolutionist. Moreover, Jahangir is the first hero of Bangla novel who is an illegitimate child, as Professor Rafiqul Islam asserts.
The last instance of Nazrul’s fiction ofsecond phase is his volume of short stories Sheulimala.Besides all these we have got ‘Boner Papia’ which was not incorporated in any of his books. Some people comment negatively on the lucidity of its language. But I like to mention that some phrases of the story may be detected in Nazrul’s‘Aamar Sundar’, which was published in 1942. Along with that we can discover similar lines like Peu Kaha Peu Kaha or Chokh Gelo Chokh Gelo in many songs of Nazrul which were written after 1930. In this story Nazrul delineated a Vaisnava philosophy very allegorically. After the death of his son Bulbul in 1930, Nazrul gradually turned to spiritual Vaisnava ideology. In ‘Boner Papia’ we observe the delineation of a mother’sangst for her child. Unlike ‘Padmo Gokhro’ Nazrul gave a symbolic meaning to his ‘Boner Papia’. ‘Krsna is the only Swami (husband), everything else is nature’ – this philosophy of The Geeta is in the core of ‘Boner Papia’. When the bird, that Ramala considered the representative of Paramatma (Supreme God), dies Ramala sacrifices herself and thus rushes behind the Paramatma. Nazrul’s ‘Boner Papia’ is the first of this genre where the philosophy of The Geeta got exposed in literary efforts, let alone in any Muslim writer’s books.
Nazrul’s fiction is ever neglected since their publication. Most of them were published in the periodicals edited by Muslim people. As a result they could not reach the largest readership of the then Bengal. But if we have a close look at his fiction pieces, we will be able to discover many characteristics in them, which were inconceivable to his predecessors, and even to his contemporary fiction writers.