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Madhumita Chakraborty

By Sibaji Bandopadhyay . Translated by Rani Ray and Nivedita Sen 
Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 325, Rs. 950.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 11 November 2015

Children’s literature in Bengal has a rich history, not unusual since Bengal was in the lead during the 19th century, and even later. The Bengal renaissance had also seen a rich proliferation of literature, including the genre of children’s literature. Children’s books are generally regarded as ‘frivolous’ and ‘ephemeral’ and the genre has not attracted the amount of critical attention that it deserves. There is therefore a huge gap—between the literature, and research on the same, between the vibrancy of the literature, and the dryness of the research. Children’s literature in Bengali is also unique in many ways. For instance, in most languages, those who write for children and those who write for adults are almost exclusive fields. For instance, in recent times, the author of the Harry Potter series—(for children/young adults/adults), J.K. Rowling had to actually change her pen name, when writing a novel in another genre, so associated was she with Harry potter. Occasionally an adult writer may write a book for children or vice versa. But the two distinct groups are always there. In Bengali literature however this age distinction has been totally absent. All good writers also write for children simultaneously. Whether it was a scholar-reformer like Vidyasagar, or the likes of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Jagadish Chandra Bose and Satyajit Ray all without exception wrote for children in addition to their other writings. The availability of primers, poems, rhymes, fables and stories—all unique and exceptional in their style, content, taste and flavour. Magazines and annual Puja numbers of journals have put together, year after year, stories, poems and plays for children. There is hardly any adult writer of stature who has not contributed to this venture. Sibaji Bandopadhyay’s original Bengali book Gopal-Rakhal Dvandosamas was a pathbreaker when it was first published in 1991. While it was certainly not the first detailed work on Bengali literature, it did seek to offer a ‘a new way of reading literature itself’. Therefore, as Sankha Ghosh states in the Foreword to the 2013 Bengali edition, the book was ‘an advent, a harbinger of ways of thinking about literature proper to our age.’ In fact, the book opened up such new ideas, delving into ‘a startling analysis of hidden aspects of the psyche of both authors and readers’ (p. x). The work provides a unique and in depth ...

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