Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, April 25, 2011

Selina Hossain -(বাংলাদেশ)-A Leading Bangladesh Author

"Honour" by Selina Hossain (3 pages, 1982)

A Very Powerful Story About the Lives of 
Ordinary Women in Bangladesh

Selina Hossain (1947) was born in Rajshahi, Bangladesh.    She has had a very productive and distinguished literary career.   Since writing her first  novel while still in college she has written twenty one novels and edited many works dealing with the rights of women and children.   Her many short stories have been published in four collections.   She  has also published many essays on a wide variety of cultural topics.    She is considered a  leading advocate of the rights of women and children in Bangladesh.      She is  on the board of directors of UNESCO, was recently named secretary-general of Transparency International Bangladash and was the director of a very well known school.     She also has the normal responsibilities of family life.     Much of her focus is on the lingering affects of England's rule of the Indian Subcontinent and on Pakistan's treatment of Bangladesh during the 1971 war for the independence of Bangladesh.   (Estimate of deaths from this war run up to 2,000,000.)     She has received many awards and is considered a strong candidate for the Nobel Prize.    Her books have been translated into English, Russian, French, German and several Indian dialects.    She is deeply into the reading life.

"Honour" (written originally in Bengali-translator unknown)  gets off to a stunning start.   I will let the story speak for itself:

"Maleka was murdered by her husband Latif, who slit her throat open. Then he beheaded her corpse and threw it into the Jaliabeel river beside Bakoljora village. Her body sank like a stone, then bobbed up again. Two days later, when it began to rot, the vultures arrived. Maleka’s two brothers tried to tow the body down from Jaliabeel to Durgapur Ghat. But it was so badly decomposed that a burial was no longer possible. The brothers cut it loose, letting the current of the Shomeshwari River take it. They were quite melancholic for a while, but they returned home rather satisfied with their handiwork."
Maleka, a Muslim girl, got neither a funeral nor a burial. As a child, she had learned to read the Holy Quran from a moulvi saheb. Every year, during the month of Ramadan, Maleka completed one reading of the entire Quran. She would fast right through the month as well. Her faith was without blemish.

The cool waters of the river awoke the soul of Maleka.   She did not know where to go.   She is not a sinner (her husband's accusations were groundless) so she will not go to hell but her lack of a proper death ceremony will keep her out of heaven.     She begins to be seen about the village and at the house of the family of her husband.    She was a second wife and now her husband's first wife is terrified she will be murdered also.    (Everyone, including the police knew of the murder but no one comes to investigate the killing.)   Then she sees Maleska.   When she runs screaming to her husband, he knocks her to the ground and kicks her until she passes out.   We then learned the husband somehow thought his second wife had made sexual advances toward his first wife.   That fantasy is why he killed her.

Maleka goes to her families house (of course no one can see her) she hears her sister in law say that she got what she deserved.    Her brother agrees they are best rid of her.    

Maleka goes to the market and listens to a loud policeman telling a story:

 “You people must remember the incident at Durgapur. A man brought the head of his elder brother’s wife to the police station. He said that he had killed the whore in order to protect their family honour. Just think, gentlemen, what nobility of character!”   The policeman is then reminded that this man was tried and hanged for this.   He at once says it is because they still live under corrupt laws from the days of British rule.   He says that if they lived under honorable laws the man would be celebrated.

There is more in this story than I have told.   In just a few pages Hossain brings a very ugly world to life for us.   

This another story from the pages of The Little Magazine,   a very high quality literary and cultural publication based in Delhi and dealing with pan-South Asian issues.    

I have begun a new area of reading for me, The South Asian short story.    I am very excited by this.   I would welcome suggestions and guidance from those with experience in this reading area (I would not call it a genre).      If you want to read some stories on your own, you will find about 45 of them through the web page of The Little Magazine.     There are cultural parallels to the Irish Short story in that both are set in cultures that partially define themselves through their rejection of colonial Britain.   There are other similarities that interest me also but that will wait.      

I will to some extent focus on stories about the rights of women and children and stories that deal with the effects of the British rule of India.    I have links to 100s of stories already.   

Mel u

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