Bangladeshi English literature

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Bangladeshi English literature (BEL) refers to the body of literary work written in the English language in Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi diaspora. English has been spoken and written in the territory of modern-day Bangladesh for over three centuries, with the country once forming part of the Bengal Presidency in the British Empire. The term is also called as Bangladeshi Writing in English (BWE) in the academia.[1]. Although it is a new term; over time, it is getting popularity.

Early prominent Bengali writers in English included Begum Rokeya and Rabindranath Tagore. Modern Bangladeshi writers include Tahmima Anam, Kaiser Haq, K. Anis Ahmed, Razia Khan, Ahsan Akbar, Neamat Imam, Monica Ali and Zia Haider Rahman.

As a category, Bangladeshi writing in English comes under the broader realm of postcolonial literature- the literature from previously colonized nations such as Bangladesh.


Sake Dean Mahomed, an 18th-century immigrant to the United Kingdom from Bengal, was the first South Asian to write a book in English titled The Travels of Dean Mahomet; the book was published in 1793 in England. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (1838–1894) wrote "Rajmohan's Wife", the first English novel written by a Bengali native in British India, which was published in 1864. Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), who lived for decades in what is now Bangladesh, wrote in Bengali and English. Tagore's own English translation of his celebrated work Gitanjali led to him being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.[2]

In 1905, Begum Rokeya (1880–1932) wrote Sultana's Dream, one of the world's earliest examples of feminist science fiction.[3]

Contemporary scene[edit]

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam is an award-winning classic of Bangladeshi English literature. The book is set during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Anam is also the author of The Good Muslim. Zia Haider Rahman, a British Bangladeshi novelist, published his debut novel In the Light of What We Know in 2014 which won the James Tait Black Prize for literature in 2015. Rahman received glowing praise and acclaim for his first book, which The New Yorker described as "astonishingly achieved".[4] The Black Coat by Neamat Imam portrays the authoritarian regime of Bangladesh's founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Monica Ali's Brick Lane was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2003. K. Anis Ahmed is the author of Goodnight Mr. Kissinger, a notable collection of short stories. Like A Diamond in the Sky by Shazia Omar portrays the psychedelic world of Dhaka's university students, who are caught up in the haze of drugs, punk rock and fusion.[5] Farah Ghuznavi and Rashid Askari are other notable short-story writers.

Contemporary Poetry[edit]

Kaiser Haq, Razia Khan and Farida Majid are among the most prominent names in Bangladeshi English-language poetry. Sadaf Saaz, Ahsan Akbar and Mohammad Shafiqul Islam also write poetry in English. Among the young poets, Abu Sufian[6] has emerged as one of the poets who has contributed in Bangladeshi writings in English. His poems have appeared in many national and international publications. Sufian's poems got published in four international poetry anthologies, they are; Voice of Monarch Butterflies (2016),[7] Apple Fruits of an Old Oak (2016)[8] Where Are You From? (2017)[9] and Dandelion in a Vase of Roses[10] (2017).[11]

Media and journals[edit]

Bangladesh has an influential English-language press, including majors newspapers The Daily Star, New Age, Dhaka Tribune, The Independent, which bring out weekly literary supplements. Prominent magazines include The Star, Slate, Dhaka Courier and Forum. Bengal Lights is the country's leading English literary journal.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bangladeshis writing in English". The Daily Star. Retrieved 2017-08-07.
  2. ^ "Tagore and His India". Retrieved 2016-08-06.
  3. ^ Anam, Tahmima (27 May 2011). "My hero Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain". Retrieved 6 August 2016 – via The Guardian.
  4. ^ Wood, James (May 19, 2014), "The World As We Know It: Zia Haider Rahman's dazzling début",The New Yorker. Retrieved on January 20, 2015.
  5. ^ "Twinkle, twinkle, little stir | books". Hindustan Times. 2009-09-11. Retrieved 2016-08-06.
  6. ^ "HALL OF POETS POETRY OF THE WEEK - ABU SUFIAN". Hall of Poets. Retrieved 2017-10-07.
  7. ^ Saeidnia, Soodabeh (2016). Voice of Monarch Butterflies: Middle Eastern Anthology by Ten Poets from Ganges to Nile, p. 110. CreateSpace, USA. ISBN 1533565198. |url= |
  8. ^ Saeidnia, Soodabeh (2016). Apple Fruits of an Old Oak: A Collection of Contemporary Short Poems, Micro-Poetry, Haiku & Photography , p. 166. Kew Gardens Press, USA. ISBN 1539428974. |url= |
  9. ^ Saeidnia, Soodabeh (2016). Where Are You From?: A Bilingual Anthology in English and Persian, p. 314. CreateSpace, USA. ISBN 1545136874. |url= |
  10. ^ Johnson, M. Lee (2017). Dandelion In A Vase of Roses: A Poetry Anthology Of Diverse Poets and Countries, p. 326. Johnoson Publication & Artistic Creation, USA. ISBN 1545352089. |url= |
  11. ^ "ABU SUFIAN - POEMS". Scarlet Leaf Review Online. Scarlet Leaf Review. 15 July 2016. Retrieved 2017-04-20.