Writers discuss challenges of biographical novels

Cultural Correspondent | Updated at 08:44pm on September 07, 2018


Writers attend a discussion at Batighar Bookshop in Dhaka on Friday. — Snigdha Zaman

Biographical novels comprise elements of both biography and fiction genres. While writing such novels writers often have to trim down or reimagine the details to provide the readers a fictional account of the subject’s life, which requires a lot of research and work effort. Therefore, writing biographical novel is always challenging, said writers at a literary discussion on Friday morning.
Three local and an Indian novelists, who have written biographical novels, shared their experiences with the audience at the discussion held at Batighar Bookshop at Bishwo Shahitto Kendra in the capital.
Local writers Shahaduzzaman, Bishwajit Chowdhury and Suhan Rizwan and Indian writer Binod Ghoshal participated at the session, which was presided over by poet-writer Sumon Rahman.
Shahaduzzaman has written two biographical novels Crutch-er Colonel and Ekjan Kamolalebu respectively on the lives of Colonel Taher and poet Jibanananda Das, Bishwajit Chowdhury has written Nargis depicting the life of national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam’s beloved Nargis, Suhan Rizwan has written Sakkhi Chhilo Shirostran narrating the life and works of the first prime minister of Bangladesh Tajuddin Ahmed and Indian writer Binod Ghoshal has written Ke Bajay Banshi on the life of poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.
The four novelists shared how they were inspired to write novels on historical persons and the challenges they faced while writing those novels.
All the four novelists shared that they felt a compulsion to write on the historical persons.
‘Writing biography and writing biographical fiction are two completely different things. The latter genre might share many facts with the former, but the way facts are treated in a biographical fiction makes it altogether different’, said Shahaduzzaman adding that biographical novels are sort of ‘docu-fictions’.
‘In biographical fiction, a writer cannot give you all the information about the life of the subject’, shared Bishwajit Chowdhury.
A novelist cannot say, for example, that in one account given by this man we get such a picture and in another account given by that man we get another picture. A novelist must choose between the facts and re-imagine the person’s life for his novels and stories, added Chowdhury.
‘When we write on very popular figures like Kazi Nazrul Islam, the pressure is very high as readers do not expect us to miss or misuse the facts and, at the same time, they want a fiction, a story, not life sketches’, said Binod Ghoshal.
Speaking in the same vein, Suhan Rizwan said, ‘when the subject is a political figure, the challenges mount up’.