Translated by Rani Ray & Nivedita Sen
Literature for children is a distinctive achievement of the Bengali language. In it, we get numerous illustrations of primers that are meant to initiate reading and writing among children, poems and nursery rhymes, fables and fairytales, prose pieces and stories, plays and novels – all of which are unique in their style and content, exceptional in their taste and flavour. Literature for children has led to the production of innumerable books in Bengal; countless magazines and annual Puja numbers of journals have put together, year after year, stories, poems and plays for children. There is hardly any adult writer of stature who has not contributed to this venture. Even when we assess the nature of ideas and beliefs, Bengali children’s literature does not pall. In fact, it is a contentious site of trends and counter-trends that can be charted within inventive writings for children. Its multifarious potential, already manifest in the colonial era, continues in the decades following India’s independence. The Gopal–Rakhal Dialectic: Colonialism and Children’s Literature in Bengal offers us an evaluation of the strengths and possibilities of this very literature.
Sibaji Bandyopadhyay is former Professor of Cultural Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, and former Professor of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He won the Sisir Kumar Das Memorial Award for his contribution to Bengali literature in 2010, and the Vidyasagar Memorial Award for his life-time achievement in the sphere of Bengali prose in 2010. Some of his books of essays are Sibaji Bandyopadhyay Reader, Abar Shishusiksha, Galileo, Bangla Upanyase ‘Ora’, Bangla Shishu-sahitye Chhotmeyera, Prasanga: Jibanananda, Alibabar Guptabhandar and Through a Trap-door. His other writings include Guhalipi (poems), Madhyarekha (poems–plays–stories–essays), Uttampurush Ekbachan: Ekti Bhan (play), Bhut-bishayak Ekti Upanyaser Khasra (novel) and Ekti Barir Galpa (screenplay).
Rani Ray has taught English at the University of Delhi, University of California at Santa Barbara, and Institute of English Studies at Lodz (Poland). She has translated many short stories from Bengali to English, including those by Ritwik Ghatak, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Joy Goswami and Anita Agnihotri.
Nivedita Sen teaches English at Hans Raj College, University of Delhi. Her book Family, School and Nation: The Child and Literary Constructions in Twentieth Century Bengal has recently been published by Routledge. She has rendered into English a substantial volume of Bengali fiction, many of them for children. She has contributed to Alice in a World of Wonderlands, a compilation of essays on the translations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice.