As far as the history of modern Bengali literature is concerned, references to Abul Mansur Ahmed's name come up as an inevitable obligation. The satirical underpinnings of most of his stories cannot be missed by keen readers and sharp literary evaluators. His diction, words, titles, themes, characters and his outstanding art of mockery through literature deserve high applause. Abul Mansur Ahmed also obtained recognition with prestigious awards including Nasir Uddin Gold Medal and Shwadhinata Padak for his scintillating contribution for the enrichment of Bengali short stories. Abul Mansur Ahmed was born in 1898 and died in 1979.
Abul Mansur Ahmeder Shresta Galpa, edited and compiled by Dr. Nurul Amin and published by Daily Star Books reached my hands through a friend of mine who has been working for The Daily Star for several years. As I started to go through the short stories compiled in this book, I once again explored the authorial dexterity of Abul Mansur Ahmed and his penetrative sense of humour which have made his stories very striking and these stories contain the power to etch everlasting marks on the minds of readers. Through the superb wit Abul Mansur Ahmed possessed, the stories of this book makes derogatory hints at different social anomalies prevailing around us.
Abul Mansur Ahmed's short stories titled “Grow More Food”, “Huzur-E-Kebla”, “Food Conference”, “Relief Work”, “Langar Khana”“Jonosheba University” and some more tales deliver massive blows to the fallacies and malpractices going on in our society under tapestries of religion and politics. Unscrupulous people often capitalize on the ignorance and naivety of ordinary masses for gaining political and monetary momentums. These stories also aim to raise awareness among the people about these masked tricksters and their foul games. Celebrated satirist Jonathan Swift's political lampoon Gulliver's Travels has been retold by Abul Mansur Ahmed in a very amusing and witty style with sharp observations about the detrimental aspects which often arise due to lack of good governance in a state. We know that Jonathan Swift poked fun at the royal government of England of 18th century allegorically through the travel stories of his protagonist Gulliver. Abul Mansur Ahmed rebooted this classical travelogue with dashes of his own to make it relevant to contemporary geopolitical circumstances around him.
The humour-packed approach to short stories exhibited by Abul Mansur Ahmed reminds us of another famed author of our language—Syed Mujtaba Ali. On the other hand, foreign authors and poets who had a powerful knack for satire may also be named while appraising the stories of Abul Mansur Ahmed. In this context we can refer to Aristophanes from ancient Greece, Cervantes from Spain, Alexander Pope from England, Mark Twain from America and some more timeless writers who illuminated their authorial eminence with the force of their sarcastic and creative edges.
Abul Mansur Ahmed also used several words from the regional dialects of the country which have added a comic punch to his stories making them broadly hilarious. The focal traits of Abul Mansur Ahmed's stories call back in our memory Aristotle's thoughts on literature in his acclaimed book Poetics. Aristotle wrote in his book that literature should aim to entertain as well as enlighten people by underlining social aberrations in a joyous way. We find the reflection of this thing in Abul Mansur Ahmed's stories.
The appendix of the book Abul Mansur Ahmeder Shresta Galpa contains a glossary of a wide number of words in alphabetic order along with their meanings. These words are from Bengali, English, Persian and Arabic languages. Adding this glossary at the end of the book is helpful for readers to enhance their vocabulary and also for better understanding of the stories.
Some people often resort to prevarication and humbugs to beguile other fellows around them. This aura of false impression gets shattered through the piercing lingual brunt of Abul Mansur Ahmed. Abul Mansur Ahmed certainly exposed his bravery as an author by hitting hard at the bottom of pranks and fraudulence which are frequently adopted by hypocrites to deceive others.
Mahfuz Anam, currently Editor of The Daily Star is Abul Mansur Ahmed's son. From this point of view it can be stated that being a prominent writer and journalist, Mahfuz Anam has been able to sustain the legacy of his legendary father.
The book contains adulating remarks from national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam who admired Abul Mansur Ahmed's masterful literary competency. There are comments from some other renowned scholars and writers who all immensely applauded Abul Mansur Ahmed's satirical craftsmanship.
Literature is able to bring about vital reforms in society. That's why we find stories and poems having deep impact on people's mindset as well as on the ruling authority of a country. I hope most of the readers can easily recall the hue and cry caused by George Orwell's book Animal Farm which fiercely and allegorically castigated the Stalinist regime in former Soviet Union. In the same way Abul Mansur Ahmed's stories also call for corrections and necessary changes with social patterns for greater welfare of people.
The reviewer is a columnist for different English newspapers and magazines.