Poet-novelist Nabaneeta Dev Sen no more
Eminent litterateur and academician Nabaneeta Dev Sen died in her South Kolkata residence on November 7 after a protracted illness.
She was 81 and is survived by two daughters - writer Antara and actress Nandana.
Winner of Sahitya Akademi award and Padma Shri, Dev Sen was suffering from cancer for a long time and her condition deteriorated during the past 10 days, family sources said.
A poet, a novelist, a columnist and writer of short stories and travelogues, Dev Sen was also known for her research on the Ramayana.
She worked as a teacher in the Oxford University and the Colorado College in the US. Dev Sen also taught Comparative Literature in Jadavpur University here.
Born to poet-couple Narendranath Dev and Radharani Devi, in Kolkata on January 13, 1938, she graduated from the Presidency College. Dev Sen married Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen in 1958. They got divorced in 1976.
Economist Abhijit Banerjee, who won the Nobel this year, had visited Dev Sen at her residence during his short stay in the city last month.
The author was a prominent commentator on the political and social situation in the country, certainly in Bengal. Alongside political commentary she wrote the most wondrous fairy tales for children. Some of her best known books included a series called Balobashar Baranda or Beloved Balcony. Her home where her celebrated parents once lived and is now a heritage property is called Bhalo Basha or Love.
Nabaneeta Dev Sen was a writer in residence at several international artists' colonies, including Yaddo and MacDowell Colony in the United States; Bellaggio in Italy; and the Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem.
She delivered the Radhakrishnan Memorial Lecture series (1996-1997) at Oxford University on epic poetry.
She was a Visiting Professor and a visiting creative writer at several universities including Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, Chicago (USA), Humboldt (Germany), Universities of Toronto, British Columbia (Canada), Melbourne, New South Wales (Australia), and El Collegio de Mexico.
She held the Maytag Chair of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at Colorado College 1988-1989. She represented herself and India in many international conferences, both academic and literary. These conferences were presented at the Festival of India USA 1986; the Frankfurt Book Fair 1993; and the Munich Book Week 2002.
She held important executive positions in International academic bodies like the International Comparative Literature Association (1973-1979), and the International Association of Semiotic and Structural Studies (1989-1994). She was the chief editor of Bengali in the Macmillan's Modern Indian Novel Series. She also served as Member of the Jury of important literary awards including the Jnanpith award, Saraswati Samman, Kabir Samman, and Rabindra Puraskar. Nabaneeta Dev Sen was the Vice-President of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad. She was the founder and president of West Bengal Women Writers' Association.
She was the founder secretary and later Vice-President of the Indian National Comparative Literature Association. She was a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain.
She was the Member of Advisory Board for Bengali, Sahitya Akademi from 1978 to 1982 as well as the Member and Convenor, Bharatiya Jnanpith Award Language Advisory Committee from 1975 to 1990.
In 2002, Nabaneeta Dev Sen retired as Professor of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, Calcutta. She worked with the treatment of women in world epics and the treatment of epic poetry by rural women in India. Nabaneeta Dev Sen was nominated as the JP Naik Distinguished Fellow at the Centre of Women's Development Studies, New Delhi, 2003-2005, where she translated Chandrabati's 16th-century Bengali Ramayana text into English with a critical introduction and annotations.
She was a University Grants Commission Senior Fellow at University of Delhi.
Nabaneeta Dev Sen published more than 80 books in Bengali: poetry, novels, short stories, plays, literary criticism, personal essays, travelogues, humour writing, translations and children's literature. Her first collection of poems Pratham Pratyay (First Confidence) was published in 1959. Her second poetry collection Swagato Debdoot was published 12 years later.
Her first novel Ami Anupam (I, Anupam) was published in 1976 in the Puja Issue of the Ananda Bazar Patrika. It is about an urban middle class intellectuals leading the youth in revolution and later contradict them during the Naxalite movement.
Nabaneeta Dev Sen dealt with a wide variety of social, political, psychological problems like the role of the intellectuals in the Naxalite movement (Ami Anupam, 1976), the identity crisis of Indian writing in English (1977), that of the second generation NRIs (1985), breakdown of the joint family, life in old age homes (1988), homosexuality (1995), facing AIDS (1999, 2002), child abuse, and obsession, uprootedness, immigration and exile in her novels, often using women as her central characters.
Nabaneeta Dev Sen's short stories and travelogues are a rare combination of fine humour, deep human concern, and high intellect, which made her a unique figure in the Bangla literary scene.
Her first short story collection was Monsieur Hulor Holiday (Monsieur Hulo's Holiday, 1980). Her essays, such as Nati Nabanita (Nabaneeta The Actress, 1983) are considered the best of her prose writing by critic Sanjukta Gupta.
Her best-selling Karuna Tomar Kon Path Diye (The Path of Thy Grace, 1978) has an account of a solo woman on pilgrimage to Kumbh Mela. Her travelogue Truck Bahoney Mac Mahoney depicts her ride on a ration truck across northeast India and Tibet in 1977. Her other notable works included Bama-Bodhini, Srestha Kabita, and Sita Theke Suru.
She was a well-known children's author in Bengali for her fairy tales and adventure stories, with girls as protagonist. She also wrote prize-winning one-act plays.