Writer Akimun Rahman’s creative impulse and intellectual engagements have spread over the last three decades resulting in 15 titles to her credit and making her one of the finest female writers in contemporary Bengali literature.
A trained academic and literary critic, Akimun has earned a name for her novels and short stories that brings to the fore women’s lived reality and their perspectives, among other tones and hues of life.
In novels like Purusher Prithibeete Ek Meye (A Girl in the World of Men), Rakto Punje Genthe Jawya Machhi (A Fly Stuck in Blood and Pus), Jeebaner Roudre Udechhilo Kayekti Dhulikana (In Daylight Flew a Few Specks of Dust) and others, Akimun has explored womanhood, women’s sexuality, lower class women’s struggles and intimate feelings, while simultaneously exposed the ‘construction of women’ by the society — a frame that works against their emancipatory dreams and struggles.
In her research works, the writer, also a professor at East West University, has engaged with the societal construction of women’s identity as in Bibi Theke Begum (From Bibi to Begum: An Account of the Evolution of Bengali Muslim Women), with the portrayal of men in women’s writings as in Nirantar Purush Bhabna (Incessant Thinking about Men: The Images of Man Presented in some Bangla Fictions and Thrillers by Woman Writers).
Besides, Akimun also researched realism at length in modern Bengali novel between 1920 and 1950, which earned her a PhD from Dhaka University.
For her contributions to literature and literary research, Akimun recently received Ananya Literary Award 1425 at a programme on January 5.
In an interview with New Age, the writer dwelt on her literary journey, her literary preoccupations as well as her current engagements.
Akimun’s early passion for literature has been developed within her family environment where reading and writing were encouraged.
‘I inherited reading habit from my family. My mother was a published-writer and my father, though a divisional accountant, was an avid reader,’ recollects Akimun who engaged herself in publishing literary wall magazines during her college years.
In fact, some of Akimun’s poems were published in wall magazines during her teens, while the first story was published in a mainstream literary magazine named Kishore Bangla.
Her passion for literature and her reading habit intensified when she was admitted to the Bangla department at Dhaka University.
‘My university years made me more inclined towards literature. I got myself acquainted with all major Bengali writers during those years and I fell deeply in love with Vaishnava literature,’ said Akimun.
After post-graduation, Akimun enrolled for her PhD under the supervision of the eminent writer, Professor Humayun Azad. Though she wanted to write her dissertation on Bengali literature in the middle age, but her supervisor talked her out of it.
‘I was told, in fact ordered, by Azad sir to take on modern Bengali literature. Eventually, I ended up exploring the nature of realism in modern Bengali novels produced in the first half of the twentieth century,’ Akimun remembers. She takes pride in the fact that her supervisor was Humayun Azad, whose impact on her literary and research career left a permanent mark.
Akimun’s dissertation entitled Aadhunik Bangla Upanyase Bastabatar Swarup (Realism in Modern Bengali Novel), which earned her a PhD in 1991, was later published by Bangla Academy in 1993.
In the following year, the writer published her first collection of stories which she titled Sonar Khadkuto (Gold Straw: a collection of juvenile short stories), while her first novel Purusher Prithibeete Ek Meye (A Girl in the World of Men) was published in 1997.
The novel, which explores and exposes the interior world of a woman named Shamima, her upbringing in, and fight against, the patriarchy while it traverses her sexuality and psyche, earned her instant recognition.
Akimun’s second novel Rakto Punje Genthe Jawya Machhi (A Fly Stuck in Blood and Pus), published in 1999, takes the first novel’s theme of womanhood and women’s sexuality and threads into it new narratives to voice her concerns in a more intense and intimate language.
‘As a woman, I am more familiar with women’s feelings and struggles. The women in my writings are, in fact, all around us, struggling to find their footholds in the society,’ said Akimun, who, though has been writing on and about women, distastes being labelled as ‘feminist’.
‘I am not a feminist. I am a harsh critic of the parochial sort of feminism practised by most feminists here who are self-cantered and use feminism as a shield and speak of it only when it serves their narrow interest,’ argues Akimun whose Bibi Theke Begum (1996), an inquiry into the evolution of Bengali women during the twentieth century, caused a considerable stir even among the progressives and earned her flak.
Besides exploring womanhood, Akimun has also worked on the concept and construction of man and manhood in women’s writings and in myths respectively in Nirantar Purush Bhabna and Pouranik Purush.
The writer is now working on her eighth novel Ekdin Ekti Buno Prem Phutechhilo, while her seventh novel titled Achin Alo Kumar O Naganya Manobi, which incorporates certain aspects of magical realism, has just been published.
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