Lit Inside

A Critical Review of 'Gun Island'


Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh, is a novel of migration and journey, mixed with myth and folklore, and set against the backdrop of climate change's increasing catastrophe. It features a complex narrative that blends human and animal characters, past and present, and natural and supernatural elements. Gun Island uses the myth of the ‘Gun Merchant’ as a connection to drawing parallels between the Little Ice Age and our current situation, where droughts, floods, cyclones, wildfires, and epidemics have become a part of our daily lives. According to Gun Island these unprecedented meteorological conditions, are the major cause of these catastrophic calamities. It effectively depicts people and entire communities being dislocated from their original country, as well as substantial changes in the migratory patterns of many species, making it a clarion call for climate-induced migrations.

Gun Island is kind of a novel that deals with the idea of ecocriticism, an interdisciplinary movement that aroused in the 1970s which explores the damages inflicted on the environment by human activities. Climate change is one of the most important topics at this moment, and Amitav Ghosh’s Gun Island is one of the best climate fiction in this genre. Climate fiction is concerned with the symbols, narratives, and concepts that are used to symbolize and provide meaning to climate change in our society: Environmental changes are conceived in these literary works through apocalyptic viewpoints that highlight catastrophic natural events such as floods, fires, and storms. Simultaneously, climate fiction books focus on political and social failings in addressing climate change by incorporating them into a new narrative that portrays the current situation as tangible and concrete rather than incomprehensible and impossible, as policymakers often portray it.

The most prominent aspect of Gun Island is the unification of history, culture, and nature. The story follows Deen Datta, an antique book dealer who was born in Bengal but now lives and works in New York. Deen visits a cousin on one of his journeys back home who tests his knowledge of Bengali and Indian mythology by telling him the narrative of “Bonduki Sadagar”, the Gun Merchant. Deen goes to a dhaam, a temple created for a god, in the Sundarbans, a mangrove region in the Bay of Bengal, to better comprehend the story. He reveals the entire story of the Gun Merchant, who had to sail across countries and seas to escape the Goddess Manasa Devi, goddess of snakes and all venomous creatures, who was punishing him. Deen's personal experience begins in the Sundarbans, where he is joined by marine biologist Piya, youngsters Tipu and Rafi, and subsequently by his academic adviser Cinta, an Italian professor, on a journey that would take him from India to Los Angeles and Venice. This expedition challenges Deen's sense of rationality while it sheds light on the implications of capitalism for environmental change.

As apocalyptic narratives are commonly used in climate fiction to make the horrors and urgency of environmental change more apparent to the reader. This aspect is evident in Gun Island, as Ghosh briefly discusses the cyclone ‘Aila’ of 2009 when Deen is in the Sundarbans; the author explains how the harm caused by this climatic disaster was compounded by human behavior, leading to significant societal change in the area. Moreover, Deen's trip to Los Angeles and Venice is defined by climatic changes: Los Angeles is on fire, with massive flames dangerously lighting the city's outskirts, while Venice is sinking, with the canal's water dangerously rising. Furthermore, Ghosh depicts the impact of global ecological chaos by pointing out changes in the distribution patterns of various overland and oceanic animal species. Piya is concerned about the habits of the dolphins she studies, and her concern grows when Deen tells her about a venomous snake he discovered in Los Angeles' ocean and the non-native venomous spider he encounters in Venice while staying at Cinta's house. Indeed, increasing temperatures and ecological destruction have prompted some species to move north. People are forced to migrate because of the interconnected chain of colonial history, climate change, and ubiquitous capitalism, which also forces animals to migrate.

Tipu and Rafi's experience is similar to that of many migrants, they are prepared to sacrifice everything for a chance at a better life, even if it means going on a risky voyage in which they would be subjected to harsh and cruel treatment. Furthermore, when migrants get to their final destination, they may face further difficulties. Illegal immigrants are frequently rejected and left alone on a boat in the middle of the sea, waiting for rescue and hospitality that European governments would not offer.

Finally, this apocalyptic story serves as a backdrop for Ghosh's principal theme in the novel, the need to rediscover a feeling of common humanity to create a society that is trans-species in nature, breadth, and legacy, extending beyond the brotherly human-to-human tie. Only through caring for and loving other people, he says, will mankind be able to care for and love Mother Earth once more. The vastness of the crises and their effects shown by Ghosh in Gun Island allows for cross-society and cross-species collaborations. Ghosh develops a tale that situates its protagonists inside networks that encourage reciprocal knowledge and enable cooperative acts, touching on subjects such as xenophobia, immigration, climate change, and environmental damage.

Arunav Das; Independent Filmmaker, Writer, and Translator

Gun Island   Ecocriticism   Environment   Politics   Climate   Amitav Ghosh  


Lit Inside

The Flowing River

Publish: 07:44 PM, 25 Apr, 2024


A silent river, ever flowing on,
Time whispers by, its course forever known. 
A relentless march, with steady, measured beat, 
It carries empires rise, and then retreat. 
A precious gift, each fleeting, fragile hour, 
A chance to love, to learn, to dream, to soar. 

Hold fast the moments, let them fill your cup,
For time, once spent, we never gather up.
For in each breath, a chance to rise, 
To paint a smile in tearful eyes. 
Let time unfold, a gentle guide,
Embrace the journey, side by side.

For time, though silent, speaks in whispers true,
"Live well, dear heart, the clock is ticking for you."


Lit Inside

Remembering rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam

Publish: 12:35 PM, 27 Aug, 2022


Saturday marks the 46th death anniversary of national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, widely revered for his limitless contribution to Bengali literature.

To observe the day commemorating the life and works of the rebel poet, different organisations have lined up multiple programmes throughout the day.

The Ministry of Cultural Affairs paid its tributes to the poet by placing floral wreaths on his grave beside the Dhaka University Central Mosque at 7am.

Top officials of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs honoured the poet by laying floral wreaths at his grave. The programme was organised in collaboration with the Kabi Nazrul Institute and other departments and organizations under the ministry.

Dhaka University (DU) authorities also placed floral wreaths at the grave of the great poet, with a rally led by its Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman.

Bangladesh Awami League arranged a special prayer session at the graveyard of Kazi Nazrul at 9am.

Kabi Nazrul Institute will organise a special seminar and cultural programme at Rabindra Sorobor in Dhanmondi at 5pm, which will be joined by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs Secretary Md Abul Mansur as the chief guest.

Cultural institution Chhayanaut will organise a special cultural tribute programme at its auditorium in Dhanmondi at 7pm.

The event will be simultaneously broadcast on its Facebook group and YouTube channel, and the institution is dedicating this event to the late Nazrul exponent Sohrab Hossain.

Marking the 46th death anniversary of the rebel poet, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and Hospital (BSMMU) will lift the curtain of the Nazrul Memorial Cabin at its B Block's 117 number cabin, the room where the poet spent his last days, in the capital's Shahbagh.

Envisioned by BSMMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr Md Sharfuddin Ahmed and established in association with late Professor and Nazrul researcher Dr Rafiqul Islam and State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid, the room will be open for visitors on Saturday by State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Md Enamur Rahman, along with cultural personality Ramendu Majumdar.

Several television channels including Bangladesh Television (BTV), radio stations, including Bangladesh Betar, and online platforms will broadcast special programmes commemorating the life and works of the national poet.

Known for his iconoclastic and majestic literary creations, Kazi Nazrul was born in  Churulia village of Burdwan in the Indian state of West Bengal in 1899.

Through his fiery poems, the poet inspired people to fight against the injustice and repression of colonial rule.

According to the Nazrul Institute, Kazi Nazrul wrote 2,600 songs, 600 poetries, three novels, and 43 articles in a career spanning 21 years before losing his speech.

After the death of his father, Kazi Nazrul obtained a job as a caregiver and also worked as a muezzin at a mosque to support his family. At the age of nine, he had to drop out of school to join a Churulia-based professional "eto" company.

He was introduced to Bangali and Sanskrit literature while working for the group. He returned to school a year later and enrolled at Matharun English School, but dropped out again in Class VI due to poverty.

After a while, police officer Kazi Rafizullah took him in at his home in Trishal, Mymensingh, and enrolled him in Class VII at Darirampur School.

Serving the British Army in 1917 as a soldier, Kazi Nazrul started his literary career within a few years. His cult-classic poem 'Bidrohi' (The Rebel) was published in 1921. A year later, he started a fortnightly magazine named "Dhumketu" (The Comet).

His nationalist participation in the Indian Independence Movement landed him in the hands of colonial British authorities on several occasions.

While in prison, Kazi Nazrul authored the "Rajbandir Jabanbandi" (Deposition of a Political Prisoner), and his creations later encouraged Bangladesh Liberation War.

Freedom, humanity, love and revolution are the constant themes in Kazi Nazrul's majestic literary creations. He was against all sorts of religious, caste-based, and gender-based discrimination and extremism.

He wrote short stories, novels and essays, but his songs and poems are his most critically acclaimed literary creations. He popularised Bengali ghazal melodies, and is noted for his liberal usage of Arabic and Persian terms in his writings.

Kazi Nazrul created a new genre in music called "Nazrul Geeti", a collection of 4,000 songs that he wrote and created the music for, many of which were recorded on HMV.

In 1942, Kazi Nazrul began to lose his voice and memory due to an unexplained ailment. Later, a medical team in Vienna identified his illness as Pick's disease, a rare and incurable neurodegenerative disease.

His family travelled to Bangladesh at the invitation of the then Bangladeshi government and settled down in Dhaka in 1972.

For his iconic contribution to Bangla literature and culture, Dhaka University awarded him an honorary post-doctoral degree in 1974. 

He was awarded Ekushey Padak in 1976.

Kazi Nazrul breathed his last in Dhaka on 29 August, 1976, and was buried next to a mosque on the Dhaka University campus, fulfilling a wish he had made in one of his poems.



Lit Inside

A Bend in the River: Naipaul’s Critical vision of the Post-colonial world


A Bend in the River (1979) by V. S. Naipaul is one of the most acclaimed novels in modern times. It is considered the response to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness that redraws the map of neo-colonialism and political turmoil in post-colonial Africa. In the Heart of Darkness, Conrad draws the mundane picture of European colonialism while Congo was a Belgian colony. On the other hand, Naipaul's description of Congo in A Bend in the River deals with the post-colonial reality and explores the historical and social dimensions. Naipaul relates to the novel and sets up his characters in terms of his world views and ideological orientations. So, it is evident that this novel is based on Naipaul’s view of third-world people. This is the reason Naipaul implies the social and political disorder and contemporary liberation movements as the unavoidable phenomenon in Africa as well as the other colonies of the west. Naipaul’s description of the post-colonial conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo includes racial and cultural inequality, political domination by the imperial powers, and exploitation of labor, slavery, and subjects to the black people. The beginning process of decolonization in DR Congo had gone under a neo-colonial process that reflected a change of power relationship between the colonial power and colonial nationalist movements which arose from the traditional imperial hegemony.

 In the 1960s, the nationalist movement in Congo grew up and Patrice Lumumba became the elected prime minister of DR Congo. The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960. Shortly after the independence from Belgium the elected Prime Minister Lumumba was murdered, and the state power was taken by Lieutenant colonel Joseph Mobutu with the backing of the U.S. and Belgium. After that Mobutu continued his dictatorship in DR Congo for the next 32 years. Mobutu established a single-party rule and his government periodically arranged elections where he was the only candidate. Mobutu’s government was responsible for severe violations of human rights, political repression, and corruption. He successfully neutralized his political opponents and rendered the rivals politically impotent. However, the thirty-two-long autocratic regime of Mobutu is the time frame of Naipaul’s A Bend in the River. But throughout the novel, Naipaul uses fictional characters to set up his plot and does not mention the state’s name and the president’s. But his metaphorical narration refers to the regime of Mobutu in DR Congo.

As the novel opens, the narrator, Salim, describes his weeklong journey into the interior of an unnamed revolution-ravaged central African state to take over the management of an abandoned shop in a settlement at the bend in the river partially destroyed in the violence that preceded independence. “Africa was my home,” Salim observes, “had been my family’s home for centuries.

A Bend in the River paints a bleak picture of Africa's future as the continent takes its first steps toward political independence. The novel's central idea "a new Africa" comes from the President, who struggled to unite his country in the early years of his political office. He does this by establishing development projects that will help bring his country into the modern world but destroy important aspects of its past. The President shows that he cannot express his vision of a new Africa. For example, it authorizes the creation of a base in the hope that it can serve as a model for a new Africa, but the infrastructure fails to achieve the President's ambitious ambitions. Buildings are in short supply, and some projects are not yet complete. In addition, Salim sees the Domain and the sages living there as a pursuit of "African words" that remain unrelated to "real" Africa. At the same time, the city is going through repeated cycles of tension, growing political tensions are showing signs of revolt, and the President is increasingly abusing his power. The “new Africa” appears dangerously unstable by the novel's end. 

Almost all of the characters within the novel suffer from emotions of dislocation. Some of those characters were geographically displaced from their homes, and a few feel alienated from the cultures they grew up in. Others have a combined ethnic or racial background that makes them perpetually out of the area. Salim, the novel’s protagonist, suffers from more than one kind of dislocation. As an Asian who grew up in Africa, he can't lay declare his Indian historical past nor does he feel an actual connection to Africa. Similar to this cultural shape of dislocation, Salim becomes geographically displaced when he acts from his community on the East African coast to the town in the continental interior. Due to those exceptional, overlapping varieties of dislocation, Salim reviews confusion about his identification and his social and political popularity. A perpetual outsider, he struggles with tension and melancholy, and as the novel progresses, he feels increasingly more worried about political violence.

The presidential photograph's recurring pattern depicts the politician's progression from a promising young leader to a dangerous autocrat. The President's first images portray him as a shrewd leader capable of leading Africa into the future. Although the shots need the use of a contemporary camera, the images represent the President dressed as a traditional African chief. In this way, the early images combine parts of tradition and modernity, which accurately reflects the President's political platform of a "new Africa" that embraces rather than rejects tradition. However, as the narrative progresses, the photos become increasingly propaganda-like. The photographs are becoming more widely distributed. The graphic composition quietly highlights the President's power by ensuring that his body takes up the majority of the image and relegates the rest of the image to the background.

The world Naipaul has presented in A Bend in the River is both fictional and actual, and it is not to blame for the breakdown of the African order. Individual Africans, according to Naipaul, are to blame for the tragedy in their life. Although the colonial system is the principal cause of marginalization in the former colonial countries, the novel rejects this blame from the start. The beginning, with its anti-evolutionary ethos, encapsulates the novel's whole existential worldview, as Naipaul states, “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”

Despite Naipaul's insights and the presentism of most of his characters, A Bend in the River mainly depends on a unit to confront the reader's psyche with the layers of colonial and postcolonial history. The novel's nameless town is made up of colonial and postcolonial fragments. The postcolonial urban and surreal is destroying the playing ground of Eurocentric semantics and historicism not just in Africa, but also in London. The city's design reflects the fusion of London and postcolonial colonies. The spatial and social repeating of African history in London defies the urban dichotomy of the contemporary city versus the colonial outpost. When Salim returns to his hometown, Naipaul depicts the national urban ghostly. Naipaul anticipates a worldwide understanding of the overlap and interconnectivity of Africa's ultimately inseparable geographies, leaving the concepts of country and nationalization redundant. Salim, the figure he created, embodies his cosmopolitanism.

Finally, by showing an unsettling link between the two components of the term, Naipaul contributes to the greater discourse about the relationship between "post" and "colonial." As a post-colonial book, A Bend in the River never offers up new possibilities for the future. It is a form of complicit post-colonialism that justifies colonialism by focusing solely on the civilizing ideals of modernity, which Naipaul regards as imperialism's positive, reconstructive, and fundamentally human aspect. Because they reject the existence of other cultures, such artists will never be able to develop new ways of seeing and experiencing reality other than through the imperialist Western lens. It is a form of rewriting imperial power that does not aim towards an alternate future like oppositional postcolonial and resistance literature. Narrating European imperialism from a European point of view is not dissimilar to Naipaul's account of developing-country modernization. ‘A Bend’ appears to be mostly written for a White/Western reader who reads in English and only sees white, never black. Naipaul's anti-evolutionary solution, if there is such a thing, is the result of his pessimistic worldview. To put it another way, it represents his ideological orientation, which is incapable of dealing with the qualitative historical transformation that the entire colonial world has experienced.

Arunav Das, Independent Filmmaker, Writer and Translator

Naipaul   Congo   Africa   Postcolonial   Novel  


Lit Inside

Poet Helal Hafiz hospitalized

Publish: 11:30 AM, 14 Jul, 2022


Poet Helal Hafiz has been admitted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in the capital on Wednesday evening. 

Confirming the matter, poet Helal Hafiz said that his physical condition has not been going well for a few days. Following the direction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, a car was sent from CMH to bring him there at around 6:00 pm on Wednesday. He will undergo some tests at the hospital.

Helal Hafeez is mainly suffering from eye problems, and not being able to eat and walk. He is also suffering from kidney disease, diabetes and neurological problems.

Earlier, Helal Hafeez was admitted to CMH in August last year due to old-age complications.

Born on October 7 in 1948 in Netrokona, Helal Hafiz's first book of poetry 'Je Jole Agun Jwale' was published in 1986. So far the book has been printed more than 33 times.

He also worked for a long time in the editorial department of Dainik Jugantar. In 2014, he won the Bangla Academy Award. In 2019, his second book of poetry 'Bedonake Bolechi Kendo Na' was published.

Helal Hafiz  


Lit Inside

Poet Nazrul Islam’s 123rd birth anniversary today

Publish: 09:39 AM, 25 May, 2022


Today is the 123rd birth anniversary of National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. The day is being celebrated across the country today (Wednesday) in a befitting manner.

Kazi Nazrul was born on the 11th Joishtha in Bengali calendar year 1306 in Churulia, near Asansol in the Burdwan district of West Bengal.

He was famous for his fiery poem Bidrohi (The Rebel) and his many melodious songs. He was a poet, lyricist, musician, revolutionary and philosopher.

The nation got inspirations from Nazrul's poems and songs during the great Liberation War and all democratic movements and struggles.

There are 2,400 of his songs, and together, they are known as Nazrul-Geeti or Nazrul Sangeet. He composed the songs, which he liked to tune himself.

Considering his impressive talent, Rabindranath Tagore dubbed him as Saraswati's bor-putra (the gifted son of the Goddess of learning).
Nazrul was the poet of rebellion against injustice and taboos. His nickname was Dhukhu Miah (Mr. Sorrow). True to his name, Nazrul suffered a lot in his life.

His father died in 1910 while he was still at school and he became the breadwinner of the family working for a bakery company, Wahid's, the most well known in north Bengal at that time.

Later, he resumed studies at Darirampur, Trishal, Mymensingh. But he left his studies to join the British Indian Army as a non-commissioned officer and was posted to Karachi. He left the army and settled in Kolkata, where he started publishing a fortnightly, Dhumketu (The Comet).

The magazine had a fiery tone and was critical of the British rule in India. He soon found himself in prison for publishing a poem written by him, "Anandomoir Agomone" (Advent of Goddess Durga-the Goddess of destruction of all evil).

In prison, he did not stop writing. He wrote, "Rajbandir Jabanbandi" (Deposition of a political prisoner).

After a prolonged hunger strike, Nazrul was released from the prison. But throughout the 1920s, he found most of his work banned. After the death of his second son- Kazi Bulbul- the poet was sad. He wrote, "My nightingale sleeps forever."

Although known for his rabid criticism of imperialism, social and religious taboos, Nazrul also explored the themes of love, romance and devotion.

He also introduced a robust style that was very bold and innovative. His use of Persian and Arabic words in Bengali poetry also opened up new literary horizons. In the 1930s, the leading gramophone company of India, HMV, as a lyricist, employed him full-time.

Later All-India Broadcasting Authority employed him. But his luck once again ran out and in 1942, he developed a rare neurological disorder that led to the loss of his voice and memory. Doctors in Vienna diagnosed it as Pick's disease.

After independence, Nazrul was declared the national poet and he was brought to Dhaka from Kolkata. He died here in 1976 and was buried beside the central mosque at Dhaka University.

In his short articulate years, he also wrote and directed a play, Byathar Dan (The gift of pain). An elaborate programme has been taken at the national level to mark the day. Different organizations and cultural bodies in the capital and in districts are also celebrating the day amid various functions.

The main programme of the birth anniversary is being organized on the Bir Chandra Public Library and Nagar Auditorium (town hall) premises in Cumilla with the theme "Bidrohir Shotoborsha", where the poet had a lot of memoires and which is the home town of his wife Pramila Devi as well.

Besides, the birth anniversary of the national poet is being celebrated in the poet's memorable place Trishal in Mymensingh, Doulatpur in Cumilla, Tewta in Manikganj and Karpasdanga in Chuadanga and Chattogram.

Bangladesh Television, Bangladesh Betar and private television channels are living telecast the inaugural ceremony and air special programmes and print media have brought out special supplements highlighting the birth anniversary of the national poet.

Kazi Nazrul Islam   123rd birth anniversary