Nation mourns the loss of Syed Shamsul Haq

Wafiur Rahman
Thursday, September 29th, 2016


Cancer may have taken away the life of eminent poet Syed Shamsul Haq, but his legacy cannot be seized by any entity from the history of Bangladeshi literature. He will forever be etched alongside the best of Bangladeshi contemporary poets, whose 39 volumes of poetry, 26 plays including 11 verse-plays, 6 major novels, 49 novellas, 8 collections of short stories, 7 volumes of essay and an autobiography – all revealed a deeper inspiration, appealing  to the reader’s own feelings and stimulate their imagination.


Born in Kurigram on December 27, 1935, his literary works are still integrated in the curriculums of school level, secondary, higher secondary and graduation level Bengali literature in Bangladesh.


His plays and novels about the Liberation War delve into the psychological state of the people and their inner conflicts in a war torn country. His plays Nuruldiner Shara Jibon (The entire life of Nurul Din), Judhha ebong Judhha (War and war), Ekhane Ekhon (Here, now) and novels Neel Dangshon (The Blue Sting, 1981), Smritimedh (Massacre of Memory, 1986), Ek Mutho Janmabhumi (A Fistful of Motherland) and Megh O Machine (Cloud and Machine, 1991) among others have inspired generations.


Several of his plays have been performed in India, South Korea, USA, UK and Egypt. Syed Haq also paints as a hobby and many of his book-covers are designed by him. He has won every major award there is in the field of literature in the country, among them, as the youngest-ever recipient of the Bangla Academy Award (1966), Ekushey Padak (1984), Independence Day Award (2000), National Poetry Award (1997) and National Poetry Honour (2001).


My personal favourite happens to be one of his sonnets, titled Poraner Gohin Bhitor (Deep Within the Heart, translated by Kabir Chowdhury.) Not really a conventional choice, but I liked how he interpreted the despair of how man is in a dilemma with a woman, lacing it metaphorically with that of how a magician plays her tricks and takes the money, not because she is greedy, but her need to do those tricks repeatedly.


The full moon of love from that heart.


But, you are spellbound yourself, are you not?

You want to leave – something, holds you back.

She who does not care a fig for your fee

Plays her own tricks for the pleasure of the game

Conjures a bird, sets it free, and does not call it back again

Coins of gold roll in the dust at her feet.

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