Issue 22, 30th Anniversary


In poetry and all branches of literature, there is love, joy, suffering, and pain. Yes, there is pain, there is suffering. While reading and observing the world through the joyful dance of a heart that bleeds, insects with an unknown name are born in the brain cells. One of the side effects of this painful condition is called the “little magazine.” The little magazine is based on political consciousness, art, equality, humanism, freedom of expression, anti-institutionalism, and thoughts about overthrowing the entire world as we know it. Little magazines want to write like plowshares. They want to go deeper into a subject and look around, sorting out ideas. They want to maintain impartiality in their observations and perceptions. They are aimless travelers in the chariot of questions and arguments. They are reincarnated and unconquerable phoenixes. Little magazines don’t read only texts on paper pages; they also read the dilemma inside slums, the destruction of small indigenous communities by a rich tycoon, and the extreme judgments of religious leaders. It was in this manner that Shuddhashar was born in December 1990. After a long military dictatorship, the prospects of democracy and new possibilities hung high in the sky.

There was no ambition when we started, and that remains the situation today. What started Shuddhashar was a curiosity – or insanity! – to learn more, to change thinking, and a strong urge to gather like-minded people together. Perhaps we achieved something back then. Thirty years later, looking back, some things are evident. Coming out of romanticism, Shuddhashar was able to make a contribution by creating interest in art and literature and the vibrant intersections of urban and folk traditions. At that time, we were living in a district town, far away from the capital city of Bangladesh. That time was immediately after Glasnost and the aggressive rise of Islamic fundamentalist politics in Bangladesh. Shuddhashar´s thoughts, writings, and conversations turned to the socio-political consequences of radicalism and our responsibilities to confront those challenges. The socio-religious and political changes in our society gave shape to Shuddhashar’s commitments and role, and we vigorously responded with our pens.

Eventually, due to life obligations and the separation of the participants, the publication of Shuddhashar stopped. In the last issue, which announced that our publications would be discontinued, we asked: What alternative is there to art but death itself?

Shuddhashar remained dormant from 1995 to 2000. In 2001, the spirit of the little magazine was revived in us, and we started publishing again. We recognized Shuddhashar as a phoenix.

Then in 2004, we started publishing books. To inspire, not to impress: with this slogan Shuddhashar became an important publisher for young writers and controversial books. From 2004 to October 31, 2015, Shuddhashar published more than 1000 books. We attracted the attention of regular readers, intellectuals, politically conscious people, and the media. At the same time, Shuddhashar published many important stories, novels, poems, and essays by some of the best writers in the country. At one time, the idea spread that publishing a book with Shuddhashar meant one would get an award. Shuddhashar also published translations of many books from world literature.

Bangladesh, however, is a politically unstable country, and insecurity has been routine for a long time. Since 2013, Islamic political forces have been carrying out hateful and violent speech and programs against progressive freethinkers. Islamist extremists declared that every good Muslims should kill atheists. Since that declaration, several bloggers, writers, and many others were killed one after another, and the government remained silent. During that time, Shuddhashar was also threatened and attacked. Our readers are familiar with this story. After the nearly fatal attack on October 31, 2015, all activities of Shuddhashar in Bangladesh were stopped. Due to the security crisis, the publisher and editor had to leave the country, and all Shuddhashar’s staff left their jobs. Overnight, an established company was reduced to nothing except the burden of huge financial loss.

But dreams and commitment never die. The phoenix wakes up, and its fires are ignited again and again. Shuddhashar was able to wake up again. In a different way, in a new place, and with some new arrangements. But the commitment has stayed exactly the same: to inspire, not to impress.

So, what have we been able to do in these thirty years! We don’t yet completely know, as this story isn’t yet finished. But there is no way to deny that Shuddhashar has created some vibration. When we were part of the little magazine movement, we inspired many others to pursue little magazine activities with sincerity. Shuddhashar also inspired many young newcomers to the publishing industry. Now, traditional and established publishers in Bangladesh are no longer reluctant to publish books by young writers, and this is a tremendous success. Even if security is not yet ensured, many publishers in Bangladesh are now ready to publish various controversial books.

Today, we are witnessing that our current activities are reaching new people in many new regions beyond Bangladesh. We have had the opportunity to connect with and learn from exiled writers and artists who have also experienced the harsh consequences of authoritarianism, religious extremism, and censorship. They have opened our eyes wider, and we’re grateful for their knowledge, poetic words, and resilience. We want to express our gratitude to several organizations and individuals who have contributed to restarting Shuddhashar since 2017: ICORN, Norsk PEN, English PEN, PEN America, IPA, Oslo Freedom Forum, Kulturrådet, Fritt Ord Foundation, Lise Lauritzen Brekke, Bente Riise, William Nygaard, Lisa I. Knight, and the Shuddhashar Editorial Team. In thirty years, we have gained more friends, supporters, and memories than we could ever imagine.

The people who contribute to Shuddhashar by writing, reading, and joining with us inspire us every day. Each time someone participates in our activities and resonates with the commitment to creating a better and more equitable world, we experience genuine joy. This is how we measure the success of our work. This is our inspiration.

A Surprise ‘Happy 30th Anniversary, Shuddhashar!’

Tutul, for your steadfast determination to inspire people to listen, expand horizons, re-think assumptions, challenge ourselves, and work harder for more a humane and just world.   For Tutul who never bends to our local brand of fascism, who believes in culture and in transmission of culture, who was reborn more valiant and more brave …

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Shuddhashar’s Online Magazine as (Auto)Biography

At this 30th year anniversary, the online magazine of Shuddhashar is a biography – or autobiography? – of Shuddhashar and its publisher. I was first introduced to Shuddhashar in February 2018. At that time, Shuddhashar had been online for a little more than a year. I read the articles. The bimonthly magazine issues were hopeful …

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Shuddhashar has a role to play in the global revival of critical thinking

I put high hopes in Shuddhashar. Not only because it has given me a platform to write, to discuss issues that I think are needed to be out there, to think critically and analyze our surroundings and realities, but also because it has given that chance to many others, without the restrictions of geographic borders, …

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Shuddhashar and LGBTIQ Rights: A History of Loss, Trauma, and Courage

A five-letter word, written in bold red, stands in stark contrast to the pitch-black cover as if to command the attention it was denied for years. The word reads সমকামিতা (homosexuality), a word that even the most liberal of minds would dare not utter, let alone put down in a book. But there it was …

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Ytringsfrihet og Demokratiopplæring i Skolen

Da William Nygård ble skutt og utsatt for et attentat i 1993 var jeg 19 år og nettopp ferdig med videregående skole. Jeg var politisk aktiv på venstresiden og tok ytringsfrihet og trosfrihet for gitt. Jeg visste at det var farlig å ytre sin mening andre steder i verden, men tok likevel min egen ytringsfriheten …

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স্বগত শুদ্ধস্বর : ‘জাহাজ/অর্ধসমাপ্ত স্বর্গ/আমি আছি তোমার প্রতীক্ষায়’

কণ্ঠস্বর বা গাণ্ডীব আমাদের কালে ছিল না। ছিল শুদ্ধস্বর। সেটা নব্বইয়ের শুরু। এরশাদকে হটানো হয়েছে, মসনদে বেগম খালেদা জিয়া। সোভিয়েট ইউনিয়ন ভেঙে খান খান হয়েছে। আমেরিকা বোমা খরচ না-করেই রাশিয়াকে ধরাশায়ী করেছে। কম্যুনিস্টবিশ্ব হতাশ, মুক্তবাজার অর্থনীতির উত্থান। বিশ্বায়ন শুরু, তার হাত ধরে সাহিত্যশিল্পে নানা তত্ত্ব-দর্শন। সবে পাঠে হাতেখড়ি, পাখিরে দিয়েছ গান গায় সেই গান/আমারে দিয়েছ …

স্বগত শুদ্ধস্বর : ‘জাহাজ/অর্ধসমাপ্ত স্বর্গ/আমি আছি তোমার প্রতীক্ষায়’ Read More »

জন্মালাম,দাগ রেখে গেলাম

শুদ্ধস্বর-এর তিন দশক হচ্ছে, ভাবতে অবাক লাগছে। আবার অবাকও হইনা কারণ মেঘে মেঘে হলো তো অনেক বেলা। শুদ্ধস্বর-ও তো পেরিয়ে এলো অন্তবিহীন পথ, স্বপ্ন তবু অনন্ত। মনে আছে, বইমেলায় শুদ্ধস্বর-এর ছোটখাটো স্টলে ভিড় দেখে ভাবতাম-কী আছে তার পেটিকায়! পরে তো দেখলাম, আছে আছে -স্বপ্নের গুচ্ছ আছে শুদ্ধস্বর-এ। এমন অনেক বই যা অন্য কোনো প্রকাশনী দ্বিতীয় …

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স্মৃতির জানালা খুলে

শুদ্ধস্বরের সঙ্গে আমার যখন পরিচয় হয়, তখন তা মেলা শেষের শূণ্য প্রাঙ্গন। উড়তে থাকা লাল বালি কণা বলে দিচ্ছিল, গতকাল এখানে হাজার মানুষের পদচারণা ছিলো। বা বলা চলে, উৎসব শেষে ভাঙা মৃৎপাত্রের মতো শুদ্ধস্বরের কিছু বিলুপ্ত প্রায় সংখ্যা শুদ্ধস্বরের সদস্য নিজেদের কাছে যক্কের ধনের মতোন গচ্ছিত রেখে তারা তখন তারুণ্যের নবীনতাকে পাশ কাটিয়ে যুবক। আর …

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শুদ্ধস্বর : বিরুদ্ধ স্রোতের যাত্রী

আমরা এমন একযুগে বাস করছি, যখন রক্ত দিয়েই চিন্তা করতে বাধ্য হচ্ছি। কালজয়ী এই উক্তির প্রবক্তা বাংলাদেশের স্বনামধন্য বুদ্ধিজীবী আহমদ ছফা। আহমদ ছফা তাঁর সময়কে চিহ্নিত করতে গিয়ে উল্লেখিত মন্তব্য করেছিলেন। কিন্তু ছফার এই উক্তি কি আজকের দিনে আরো অধিক প্রাসঙ্গিক নয়? আজকেও কি আমরা এই ভীষণ রকমের ‘anti knowledge’, ‘anti intellectual’ সময়ে রক্ত দিয়েই …

শুদ্ধস্বর : বিরুদ্ধ স্রোতের যাত্রী Read More »

‘মন জোগাতে নয়, মন জাগাতে’

সেটা ২০১১ সাল। বোনের বিয়েতে ঢাকা গেছি। নভেরা(নভেরা হোসেন। কবি। লেখক। এবং একজন অসাধারণ মানুষ) টেনে-হিচঁড়ে আমায় নিয়ে তো যাবেই ওর প্রকাশকের সাথে দেখা করাতে। আমি সবসময়ই নতুন কারো সাথে দেখা করতে ভয় পাই। কিন্তু বহু বছর হ’ল দেশের বাইরে থাকলেও শাহবাগের নেশা আমার রক্ত থেকে মুছে যায় নি। গেলাম ওর সাথে প্রকাশক ও লেখক আহমেদুর রশীদ টুটুলভাই-এর সাথে …

‘মন জোগাতে নয়, মন জাগাতে’ Read More »

‘শুদ্ধস্বর’ এর ৩০ বছর: আমাদের প্রয়োজন আরো বহু স্বর

শুদ্ধস্বরের ৩০ বছরের প্রায় ‘অবিশ্বাস্য’ এই পথচলায় আমি নিজে যুক্ত হয়েছি একেবারে সাম্প্রতিক সময়ে, কিন্তু সেটা এমন এক সময়ে যখন আমরা এক ভয়াবহ স্বৈরতন্ত্রের কবলে, যে স্বৈরতন্ত্র কোনো একজনকেই কেবল ‘স্বৈরাচার’ বানিয়ে তুলছে না, বরঞ্চ এর স্বৈরাচারী হাত ছড়িয়ে দিচ্ছে দিকে দিকে, চতুর্দিকে। রাষ্ট্রীয় সহিংসতার সাথে সাথে সামাজিক সহিংসতার উর্ধ্বমুখী রেখাচিত্র আমাদেরকে বারেবারে এই সত্যই …

‘শুদ্ধস্বর’ এর ৩০ বছর: আমাদের প্রয়োজন আরো বহু স্বর Read More »

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