122nd Birth Anniversary
Jibanananda Das, a pioneer of poetic purism
Jibanananda Das is one of the most widely read poets in Bangladesh and west Bengal after Tagore and Nazrul. He is known popularly for breaking the tradition of following Tagore and being independent in his use of poetic diction and style. Mr Das was born on 17th February 1899, the same year with Nazrul and allegedly found in the beginning of his poetic career being influenced by Nazrul. Later he developed an individual way of writing and is credited to be one of the early moderns in Bengali poetry. Apart from poetry he wrote 21 novels and 108 short stories that were published posthumously.
His major works of poetry are: 'Jhora Palok'( The Fallen Feathers), 'Banalata Sen', 'Mohaprithibi' ( The Universe), 'Shaat-ti Tarar Timir'( The Darkness of Seven Stars), 'Rupasi Bengal' ( The Beautiful Bengal, 'Bela Obela Kalbela' etc. His notable works of novel are: 'Malyabaan', 'Chaarjon', 'Kalyani', 'Sutirtha' etc.
There have been many instances of writers translating their own works in literature. Tagore wrote Geetanjali first in Bengali. Then he translated the poems in English titled 'Song Offering' and later got Nobel Prize for this version of poetry. Samuel Beckett wrote Waiting For Godot in French first, then translated it into English. But in case of Jibanananda Das things have not been in a large scale like the former two. He translated four of his poems into English. They are: 'If I Were' (Jodi aami hotem), 'O Kite' (Hai Chill), 'Banalata Sen' and 'Meditations' (Manosharani) and they were published in the anthology titled Modern Bengali Poems in1945.
Poverty and Jibanananda had been synonymous. He had to face the cruelties of poverty. In his career he pursued many jobs such as teaching, and job in the insurance company. He is mostly acclaimed as a poet of purism. He held, 'Poetry and life are two different outpouring of the same thing; life as we usually conceive it contains what we normally accept as reality, but the spectacle of this incoherent and disorderly life can satisfy neither the poet's talent nor the reader's imagination� poetry doesn't contain a complete reconstruction of what we call reality; we have entered a new world.' He couldn't accommodate with this new world full of wants and failures. Shy and introvert in nature Jibananda Das was the son of poet Kusum Kumari Das who wrote a poem titled ' Adarsha Chele' who will be great by work not by words. Jibaannanda fulfilled his mother's poetic wish by sacrificing his life for art.
His death had been a tragedy and a mystery for the readers. On October 14, 1954 while crossing a road near Calcutta's Deshapriya Park he was hit by a tram. Injured seriously he breathed his last seven days later on 22th October. In his lifetime one of his fiercest critics was poet Sajanikanta , who tried his level best to save the life of the purest poet of Bengal but failed. Sajanikanta wrote the death news and sent it to the newspaper.
In his obituary in the Shanibarer Chithi, SajaniKanta Das quoted Jibanananda Das:
When one day I'll leave this body
Once for all-
Shall I never return to this World
Let me come back
On a Winter night
To the bed side of any dying
With a cold pale lump of orange in one hand.
On 1st November 1954, The Times India wrote:
"The premature death after an accident of Mr Jibanananda Das removes from the field of Bengali literature a poet, who, though never in the limelight of publicity and prosperity, made a significant contribution to modern Bengali poetry by his prose poems and free verse�. A poet of nature with a serious awareness of the life around him Jibanananda Das was much known not so much for the social content of his poetry as for his bold imagination and the concreteness of his image. To a literary world dazzled by Tagore's glory, Das showed how to remain true to the poet's vocation without basking in its reflections.''
Controversies still pervade whether his death was caused by accident or he intended to kill himself being tortured by life and deprived of living of his own. After his death Allen Ginsberg wrote: One poet dead, killed near his fiftieth year....did introduce what for India would be 'the modern spirit''- bitterness, self doubt, sex, street diction, personal confession, frankness, Calcutta beggars etc -into Bengali letters.
Jibanananda Das, though, was not given proper focus and appreciation in his lifetime, but presently he is one of the leading poets for the readers of Bangla. He has been extensively cited, translated and academically researched by many literary critics. Bangla literature recognizes him as the pioneer of poetry dealing with nature along with the harsh realities of life.
On this122nd birth anniversary we would like to remember Jibanananda Das for his invaluable contributions to Bengali Literature.
The writer is a teacher at Premier University, Chattogram