Illustration by Mika Tennekoon
Illustration by Mika Tennekoon

My Sister, Life

An excerpt from Mahmudul Haque’s 'Jibon Amar Bon', translated from Bangla by Mahmud Rahman and Shabnam Nadiya

A note from the translators: 

The following is excerpted from the second chapter of Mahmudul Haque’s Jibon Amar Bon (My Sister, Life) – a tribute to the Russian writer Boris Pasternak’s poem with the same title. Jibon Amar Bon is one of the most significant works of fiction from Bangladesh. Haque wrote it in 1972, right after Bangladesh became independent in December the previous year, and it was first published in the Eid supplement of the magazine Bichitra in 1973. It came out in book form in May 1976 and has remained in print ever since. In 2023, the Bangla Academy in Dhaka included the book in the first volume of a four-volume publication of the complete works of the author, Mahmudul Haque Rochonaboli.

Written just after the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, the novel’s unsentimental approach to the liberation movement is striking. Jibon Amar Bon alternates between conversational banter and stream-of-consciousness introspection, between indoor and outdoor scenes. This excerpt begins with the protagonist, Khoka, outside his house, observing and reflecting on the political turmoil around him as conditions in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) become insurrectionary.

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Himal Southasian