Raghab Bandyopadhyay (1946-2017)

Jogia Bandyopadhyay

Raghab Bandyopadhyay passed away on February 8, 2017. He was born on 14th November, 1946. Brought up in Kolkata, he came in touch with rural Bengal in the late sixties by virtue of his close association with the Naxal Movement. It was around this time that he started writing for little magazines. Following his arrest in 1970, Raghab spent three years as a prisoner of the State. Once he described himself as a student of Presidency Jail.

His years as a political activist and subsequently a political prisoner found expression in his debut literary work "Akaalbodhan o Anyanyo Galpa" (a collection of short stories published in 1974). Subsequently the publication of his debut novel "Komunis" in 1978 met with extremely encouraging and enthusiastic response from intellectuals like Ranajit Guha (renowned historian), poet Shankha Ghosh, the late Ashok Rudra (eminent economist, social scientist and scholar) and Malini Bhattacharya (former Professor of English, Jadavpur University and former Director of School of Women's Studies). The late seventies and early eighties saw the publication of some other literary works by Raghab such as a collection of short stories called "Baadar Galpa'' and his second novel "Shaishab". During this time Raghab also began his professional career as a journalist at the invitation of the editor of Aajkal, the late Gour Kishore Ghosh, a renowned author and journalist. Later, in the mid-eighties, he joined Anandabazar Patrika.Raghab's literary journey then continued alongside his professional career, yielding non-fiction stemming from his journalistic experience like "Anya Kolkata" and "Baanglaar Mukh" as well as fiction like "Angshagrahan", "Aashmaani Kathaa : Uchchheder Panch Kahan", "Galpa 33", "Jarnal Sattar" and "Satik Jadunagar", all of which earned critical acclaim. A completely different kind of research-based project that he undertook and accomplished in 2005 was the book "Kamalkumaar, Kalkaataa Pichhutaaner Itihaas". This was published as the ninth book of a series called "Itihaas Granthamaalaa", brought, out by Ananda Publishers.

After his retirement from Anandabazar Patrika, Raghab brought into being a publishing house called Charchapada in 2008. In a relatively short time since its inception Charchapada was able to establish its own unique identity through the publication of a number of critically acclaimed Bengali titles. Even while he was nurturing Charchapada, most of Raghab's time was still consumed by his own writing. He wrote three novels, "Chor Challisha'', "Medhabibhut o Madhabilata" and "Operation Rajarhaat" during the period 2010-2013. "Kathak", a Bengali little magazine, published a special issue in 2012, dedicated to this unique author, which had contributions from eminent contemporary Bengali writers like Debesh Roy and Nabarun Bhattacharya as well as academicians/scholars such as Ashoke Sen, Sudhir Chakrabarty and Swapan Chakrabarty. In the same year Raghab was also invited to the 3rd Norman Cutler Conference on South Asian Literature at University of Chicago as a featured author.

Raghab's literary corpus, consisting of about seventy short stories, three novellas and eight novels, while not bountiful, sparkles with creativity and variety, containing many experiments with narrative form and the use of language. Raghab's own political and journalistic experiences had a profound impact on the themes of his literary works. One hears a chorus of many voices in his works, yet the dominant tone is unfailingly that of the displaced and marginalized. He presents a landscape of desolation over which wisps of dreams hover. Dreams that are frail yet tenacious. Dreams that have lives of their own.

The year 2015 saw the fruition of Raghab's most ambitious literary project "Kaataa Jibher Brittaanta : Chandanaa Daaini o Jaadubaati". Unfortunately this year also brought the fatal diagnosis of a metastatic cancer. His last book of short stories "Daladaas" was published in 2016. Towards the end of 2016 he completed, his last novel "Raktajabaa Rahasya", which was published in January, 2017.

Meanwhile, a number of vernacular dailies have published critical reviews of his last novel to pay tribute to this departed soul who chose to break with the past and show the literary world something new.

Vol. 49, No.38, Mar 26 - April 1, 2017