Nabarun Bhattacharya is no more. The revolutionary poet, short story writer and novelist, passed away on 31st July evening in a Calcutta Hospital after his prolonged battle with cancer.
In the world we live in, his iconic poem, ‘This Valley of Death Is Not My Country’ could be the anguished cry and resolve of any citizen of the world; of the people of America or Israel; Iraq or Syria; Sri Lanka or India… The spirit of that poem lives in the struggles of people: struggles that, in renouncing the ‘Nation’ that the ruling class equates with violence, cruelty, and devastation, actually expresses a profound love for one’s land, one’s people and humanity at large.
Born in 1948 in Baharampur of Murshidabad district, Nabarun was the child of renowned actor-playwright Bijon Bhattacharya and Magsaysay award-winning writer Mahasweta Devi.
Nabarun won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1997 for his novel Herbert, a landmark in modern Bengali literature which synthesizes the lives of contemporary urban marginalized and stylised poetic sensibility into political statements.
Bhattacharya relentlessly wrote about marginalised sections living on the city streets, in slums and dark alleys, using political satire, dark humour, and magic realism to telling effect to highlight oppression and exploitation of our times. He persistently challenged the dominant ideas associated with Bengali literature through his subversive writing style.
Bhattacharya was also a very close witness of the radical left movement of seventies’ Bengal, which is evident in his works. But it is not the romantic nostalgia for a radical past, but the turbulent seventies coming back to haunt the apparent peace of the present, which is a very familiar motif in his writings.
A fearless voice against state power, Nabarun always remained, in his own words, “an outsider to the circus of literature”. He returned the Bankim Award in 2007 against West Bengal Government’s Nandigram carnage. He was also a staunch critic of the Trinamool Congress government that is stifling democratic protests and civil rights.
Nabarunda’s writings will always kindle fire, he will live on in our hearts and our struggles.