Issue 32, Short Story
February is a month of many emotions and memories for Shuddhashar FreeVoice. Each year throughout the month of February in Bangladesh, book fairs are held to commemorate those who gave their lives for their mother language. (In their honor, February 21 has become the United Nations International Mother Language Day.) The Ekushey (meaning “21”) book fair, held in Dhaka, brings people together from all over the region and abroad, uniting them in the spirit of progress, cultural harmony, and humanitarianism. As far as we’re aware, there is no other example of a month-long book fair anywhere else in the world. Shuddhashar regularly participated in the Ekushey book fair as well as others from 2004 to 2015 and recorded the highest number of quality books published in consecutive years. Each February, Shuddhashar engaged in lively interactions with writers and avid readers at the book fair. During those times, we were immersed in the joy of discovering new writings and new thoughts, sharing in the excitement surrounding this important national event. Alongside this nostalgia, there is also profound sadness. 2013 began a fierce wave of threats to secular and outspoken writers and publishers who were targeted by radical Islamists. The atheist Bangladeshi American writer Abhijit Roy and Bangladeshi writer Ananta Bijay Das, whose books were published by Shuddhashar, were brutally killed. Abhijit Roy was killed in the month of February, on February 26, 2015, just after leaving Shuddhashar’s book launch at the Ekushey book fair. For publishing a significant number of books on religion and social criticism, the publishing house Shuddhashar also became a target, and on October 31, 2015, Shuddhashar’s office was attacked, leaving the publisher seriously injured.
All in all, February is a month of tumultuous reflection and emotion for Shuddhashar. The emotions inevitably come, unrestrained, but instead of dwelling on memories from another time, we try to keep our eyes focused on our dreams and commitments. For each February, Shuddhashar plans to publish a creative issue. This is our new journey of Shuddhashar. This is our commemoration of Ekushey and the annual book fair.
For this February, our creative issue is Short Story. Short fiction is a modern form of literature. With its brevity, it offers a glimpse and an experience — like feeling the waves of an ocean in a small pond. Because of its succinctness and careful attention to minutia, many people consider short stories to be an artistic medium almost parallel to poetry. The poetry lines of Rabindranath Tagore, a renown Bengali writer and Nobel laureate, offers a description that applies very well to the experience of reading excellent short stories: “There will be dissatisfaction in the heart, it will seem like the end is not the end.” The best short stories leave the reader with unanswerable questions and a feeling of dissatisfaction.
We welcome you to Issue 32 on Short Story where you will find a rich variety of stories. We strived for linguistic and national diversity when we planned this issue, but due to various limitations, it was not possible to reach the goals we set for ourselves. We were also unable to connect with many of the storytellers who are widely known for their powerful stories.
However, the stories we have published are extraordinary in terms of subject matter and style of narrative variety. In this collection, we see diverse environments and characters as well as different types of happiness, sadness, and struggles. Several of the stories are originals and published here for the first time. We have also published some wonderful translations of stories from other languages as well as some analytical essays about short stories.
To accompany the stories, we posed questions to the storytellers and translators. While not everyone was able to provide as in-depth responses as we had hoped, we suspect that recent challenges such as the pandemic, war, skyrocketing prices, and signs of an economic depression have squeezed people’s lives in many ways. People are busy, distracted, and restless. The responses given by some of the storytellers seem to reflect that. Other responses are insightful and really interesting for thinking about what inspires writers in their craft.
Our motivation for these interview questions was to ponder the contemporary role of literature. Today – as we are repeatedly reminded in news reports – nearly all the world’s information is available, but people’s attention span has decreased, resulting in significant changes in reading patterns. More changes are coming as AI becomes increasingly used as a tool for writing, including writing short stories and poetry. Our contributors don’t address these new challenges, but they share their interest in literature and their personal writing or translating experiences and goals. In an age when less people dive into the literary world, we believe it is especially important to hear writers and translators describe their enduring love of stories. Stories are not merely a form of entertainment. They have lessons for all of us about the human condition, and many of these lessons are timeless. We are convinced that there is nothing – certainly no technological invention – that can replace the human struggle to express life through stories.
Shuddhashar is absolutely delighted that internationally renowned story writer and translator Shabnam Nadiya has curated and edited this short story issue as a guest editor.
We hope Issue 32 will please readers who love to read stories and that it can serve as a resource for researchers of literature.