Ahmed Sofa: The Voice of the Deprived

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“I come from a family of farmers. It is very hard to overlook this fact. I do not want to exaggerate anything. My forefathers had been directly involved with agriculture. I feel proud to be a part of them. I want poor farmers and labourers to eat rice and sing in a jovial mood,” said Ahmed Sofa, in an interview in a book “Ahmed Sofar Samay”, written by Nasir Ali Mamun. The book received high acclaim for its simple and ordinary language.

Ahmed Sofa was one of the most prolific writers in Bangladesh. He was born in 1943 at Gaachbaria in Chittagong. Among Bangladesh’s contemporary fiction writers, Sofa is ranked first for his thought-provoking and contemplative writings. If we look at his writings, we will see most of his writings are vital and reflective, providing many messages in the social, political and economic milieus. He wrote in many genres, including novels, stories, essays, poems, translations, songs and criticism. Sofa was outspoken but bold in expressing the truth. He hardly practised religion, but his religious belief was unquestionable.

Sofa was very closely associated with noted painter SM Sultan. Both were bohemians, bachelors and had no interest in fame, money or other earthly elements.“We could not find such a personality in the last 100 years. His themes were all encompassing. He is the icon of Bengal. He is the greatest painter of the soil. He is also a philosopher. Nobody has come forward to explore him truly. We need Sultan because he was the son of a farmer. Zainul Abedin, Quamrul Hassan are not presented in such way. They are gentlemen. They do not identify with peasants and workers,” said Sofa at “Ahmed Sofar Samay”.

Sofa’s novels are usually in small volumes. All his novels draw the reader’s attention for their well-fleshed-out, familiar, lively characters. His works plunge deep into the suffering people and their miserable living conditions.

Ahmed Sofa’s “Jadopi Amar Guru” is a remarkable book- focused on National Professor Abdur Razzak’s way of life. Abdur Razzak is recognised as one of the foremost intellectuals of our country. He was a thinker, philosopher, political scientist, and analyst of various contemporary issues.

Sofa began his career as a novelist with “Surja Tumi Sathi”. Published in 1967, the literary work got an extremely favourable response. Readers felt that after a long time, they had found a writer who spoke their language.

Sofa wrote what he believed in. He disliked pretension, and his writing was devoid of exaggeration. His writings strongly voice the concerns of underprivileged people in our country. The writing was his passion. He led a very simple and ordinary life with little place for comfort and luxury. He stayed in a single room with only a bed, chairs, table and bookshelves for a long time.
Ahmed Sofa died in 2001.

(This article first appeared in The Daily Star)

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Freevoice

I write because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, said George Orwell. As a writer, I never kowtow to the whims and dictates of the sacred godmen or godwomen, the political bigots and hypocrites, dealers of laymen, the dishonest and self-serving intellectuals, traders of religions, the betrayers of ‘other’ Indians who eke out a living by their sweat, who are living in fear for being lynched for this and that.

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