Farid Ahemed Reza’s Review ( in answer to Khademul Islams’ Review in The Daily Star, Dhaka, B,desh June 10,06)
A List of Offences
Dilruba Z. Ara
Review written by Farid Ahmed Reza
Original: Published in
Bengali Literary Magazine Surma, 9.03.07 London
Re-published in Sangbad, Dhaka.
Translated into English by Farid Ahmed Reza
People of Bangladesh, who are concerned about their fellow citizens, their daily struggles and limitations, dreams and aspirations, will undoubtedly have a reawakened understanding of their native land and its people upon reading A list of Offences by Dilruba Z. Ara. The novel, full of human qualities, balanced literary flair and social obligations, expands from a village called Gulab Ganga to Chittagong and Dhaka. The story starts with the birth of the protagonist Daria in Gulab Ganga and ends with her journey towards the city of Dhaka as a single parent.
At present, many Bengalis have achieved great international success in various different fields Dilruba Z. Ara, the writer of A List of Offences is the best amongst them. Dilruba studied English literature at Dhaka University and moved to Sweden, at the age of twenty after marrying a Swedish Air Force officer, where she continued her studies at Gothenburg and Lund University, and subsequently took degrees in English, Linguistics, Classical Arabic and Swedish. Now she works full time as a teacher of Swedish and English.
A List of Offences, published by Dhaka University Press, is her debut novel. The cover has been designed by Asraful Hasan but the inset picture which has enhanced the attraction of the book, is painted by Dilruba herself. However, the most extraordinary thing about this novel is, even before it was published in Dhaka, the translations rights of the book were sold on the international market – which is first time in the literary history of Bangladesh. Also, her very first English story, Detached Belonging, has been included as a part of course literature in universities in three different countries Kenensaw State University, USA, Saharja University, UAE and Stockholm- Södertörn University-college, Sweden within a year of its publication… A List of Offences has been used as project work at Peshawar University – Pakistan, and in Utkhal University – India Indeed, A List of Offences will be marked as a mile stone in the history of literature from Bangladesh.
Along with writing stories, poems and translating, Dilruba has been gaining reputation as an artist as well. Only recently a few of her paintings were exhibited in the International female arts forum in Sweden.
Though Dilruba has spent more than two decades abroad, she has succeeded to paint the life of the rural Bengal very well. I believe this is her greatest achievement. She has not borrowed colour to coat her characters and even though she has written in English, she has daringly used colloquial Bengali through the mouths of her characters without diminishing the quality of her writing. It’s a startling experience for the reader and I congratulate her for that.
Unlike many writers who talk about women’s liberation, Dilruba has not failed to draw distinct lines between religion when religion has been misused and when inherited fears in the name of tradition have put women under shackles. The life story of Daria depicts a village girl’s struggle, grief, dreams and shattered dreams; it sings the song of women liberation, women’s sacrifice and plea. Though the novel covers a time expansion between the Pakistani eras to Bangladesh’s emergence, Dilruba has not drawn the country’s political climate to spice her story… Recently in the Daily Sangbad, Ananta Mahfuz mentioned this as an imperfection in the book, but in the eyes of several other literary critics Dilruba has given a true social picture…
The descriptive quality of the book is excellent and fluent. Dilruba has used metaphor and lyrical words which tempt the readers beyond the physical world. The book makes us aware that a poet has penned it. Even the names of the main characters are chosen carefully. Each of them bears an image and tells something of the bearer of the name. Dilruba has used ANAPHORA- a common literary style to make her book poetic and lyrical. Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, William Blake many world famous authors have used it. The meaning of ANAPHORA is that the writer repeats one word, phrase of a sentence for reasons of emphasis.
Dickens in his Tale of Two Cities wrote:
” It was the best of Time, It was the worst of Times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. it was the epoch of belief, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the winter of despair…”
William Blake has written in his Tiger poem:
“What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? What dread grasp?
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?”
On the grounds that Arundhaty Roy has used this style of ANAPHORA in her God of Small Things, a certain KAHDEMUL ISLAM has attacked Dilruba ruthlessly in the Daily Star. He has used vulgar language to attack Dilruba: He claims that Dilruba has done a wholesale copying and vulgar imitation of Arundhaty Roy’s writing. Any reader of English literature knows that using this style of repetition is neither innovation nor private property of Arudhoty Roy. Hence, it’s completely illogical to categorize A List of Offences as an imitation of Roy’s God of Small Things.
Up until now there have been many English reviews of A List Of Offences, but not a single critic has come up with such a ludicrous claim as Khademul has done. One can only say that by attacking an outstanding author like this, Khademul has only proven his poor knowledge of English literary terms and style. One can forgive him for his lack of knowledge, but one can’t help wondering how he managed to have such a so called review published in a paper like the Daily Star. One sincerely hopes that the Editor was not aware of this.
A List of Offences is indeed a triumphant novel. I heartily congratulate Dilruba Z. Ara for enabling the English speaking world to have access to this extraordinary story of a Bengali village girl’s life and struggle.