Critics place Akhteruzzaman Elias “in the pantheon of great Bengali novelists”
(12 February 1943 – 4 January 1997)
“No matter whether it is in East or West Bengal, you can’t find another writer like Akhtaruzzaman Elias. His vivid observation of all the classes, knowledge about history, genuine objectivity, use of colloquial language and humor made him an incomparable writer. If I could write something like him, I could feel really proud.” It was how celebrated writer Mahasweta Devi expressed her impression about Akhteruzzaman Elias’s works.
His full name was Akhtaruzzaman Mohammad Elias with a nickname Monju. He was born at his maternal uncle’s house in Gaibandha district’s Shaghata upazilla’s Gotia village. Elias’s predecessors lived in Bogra’s Shariakandi upazilla’s Chandanbaisha village. His grandfather later relocated to Bogra town’s Naruli village. Elias’s father BM Elias was the head master of Bogra’s Shariakandi High School and the then general secretary of Bogra District Muslim League. His mother Mrs. Moriam Elias was a housewife. First couple of years of Elias’s childhood was spent in Naruli. When his father BM Elias became a member of provisional assembly in 1946, his family moved to Dhaka. Elias started his academic education in St. Francis Xavier’s High School. Until his family moved back to Bogra and he took admission in Bogra Zilla School, Elias studied in KL Jubilee school and Dhaka Collegiate School. He passed matriculation from Bogra Zilla School in 1958. Then he came to Dhaka again and started to study in Dhaka College, from where he passed intermediate in 1960.
Quality Matters for HimElias wanted to study social science. But, as University of Dhaka didn’t take any student for social science that year, he took admission in the Bangla department. During the university days, he lived in Fazul Haq Muslim Hall. From his college life, he started to write short stories. In 1961, Elias needed to pass few days in Mitford Hospital to survive from chickenpox. He wrote a story Otondro based on that experience. He was involved with a literary magazine Shakkhor in 1964. After passing post graduation in Bangla Literature, Akhtaruzzaman Elias first joined Saadat College, Karatia, Tangail as a lecturer. Few days later, he joined Jagannath College. His first short story was published in little magazine Ashonno in March 1969. During the Liberation War in 1971, Elias often helped the freedom fighters and maintained a close connection with them. Besides, his write ups continued to develop the mass opinion in favor of our liberation struggle. After the independence of Bangladesh, Akhtaruzzaman Elias married Suraiya Tutul in 1973. When Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared BAKSHAL in 1974, as a government college’s teacher, he was ordered to join it. But, he firmly rejected to support the initiative. His first novel Chilekotthar Shepai started to be published in Dainik Shangbad’s literary page in 1975. After the brutal killing of Bangabandhu and most of his family members, when the government changed, Dainik Shangbad stopped to publish his novel. Then he said Shangbad authority that, if they don’t publish the novel, they should inform it to the readers. Otherwise, readers may think that it is the decision of the writer. Shangbad authority published the clarification. Gradually, Elias developed himself as a powerful storyteller. His short stories were published in all the leading newspapers of Bangladesh.Quality Matters for Him
Akhtaruzzaman Elias’s first compilation of the short stories, Onno Ghore Onno Shor was published in 1976. He took the title from his favourite author Truman Capote’s novel Other Voices, Other Rooms. Immediately after the publication, the story compilation achieved immense response and admiration from the critics. Writer Hasan Azizul Haque applauded about his stories in a little magazine Shongbot published from Rajshahi same year. Besides him, Mahbubul Alam, Shukanto Chottopaddhay, Muntasir Mamun, Abul Hasanat and Majharul Islam wrote criticisms on Onno Ghore Onno Shor in different newspapers. Elias’s first novel Chilekotthar Shepai again was published in Shaptahik Robibar in January 1981 that ended in next two years. Another compilation of his short stories Khoari was published in September 1982. Elias achieved Bangla Academy Award in 1983. He became the Associate Professor of Jagannath College in 1984. Dudh-vate Utpat, the third short story compilation by Elias was published in 1985. (Wikipedia)
Akhtaruzzaman Elias’s first novel Chilekotthar Shepai was published by UPL in 1986. Breaking the traditional features, this novel provided a different taste to the readers of Bangla literature. In the past, many writers tried to portray the life of the lower class people in Bangla literature. A large portion of them focused only on the rural lower class life. Akhtaruzzaman Elias was the first author who mingled the life of lower stratum of old Dhaka with an important episode of our history.