Although the Pavchatantra and Kathasaritsagar in sanskrit and the jataka and Divyavadan in pali and also Aesop’s fables and the Thousand and One Nights are full of organised tales, but these are not, in fact, short stories. As the Gesta Romanorum and the Decameron are not short stories, but only enjoyable tales told with a message. The short story as a literary form first emerged in Europe in the 19th century Europe and America, the earliest writers being Anton Chekhov, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemingway. In bangla literature this form The first short stories in Bangla are stories such as ‘Yugalabguriya’ (Twin Rings, 1874) and ‘Radharani’ (1975) by bankimchandra chattopadhyay (1838-1894). Purnachandra Chattopadhyay’s Madhumati and sunjeeb chunder chatterjee’ s (1834-1899) Ramexvarer Adrsta (The Fate of Ramexvar) and Damini (The Wife) seem to fall between the novel and the short story, and should perhaps be called novellas. Trailokyanath Mukhopadhyay’s (1847-1919) collections of stories further enriched the genre of the Bangla short stories.
Short stories are usually defined as stories that can be read in one sitting and that do not take more than 10 to 30 minutes to read. pramatha chowdhury (1868-1964) also defined short stories as being ‘short and at the same time stories. But it is not its brevity alone that determines whether a story belongs to this particular genre. The salient features of a short story is that it should be able to express more than what it says. This is what differentiates a short story from a novel that can deliberate at length. rabindranath tagore (1861-1941), in his poem ‘Barsayapan’ (Living with Rain), defined the short story thus:
Chhota pran, chhota byatha chhota chhota duhkha katha Nitantai sahaj saral Sahasra bismrti raxi pratyaha yetechhe bhasi Tari du-chariti axrujal. Nahi barnanar chhata ghatanar ghanaghata Nahi tattva nahi upadex Antare atrpti rabe sabga kari mane habe Shes hayeo haila na ses. (Simple events of life, happy or sad, Some sad strings from the train of forgetfulness, Not fraught with heavy descriptions, Not crowded with events, No advice, no philosophy Only the feeling that the story is not yet over Although there is no more to read)
The first short stories in Bangla are stories such as ‘Yugalabguriya’ (Twin Rings, 1874) and ‘Radharani’ (1975) by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay (1838-1894). Purnachandra Chattopadhyay’s Madhumati and Sunjeeb Chunder Chatterjee’s (1834-1899) Ramesvarer Adrsta (The Fate of Ramexvar) and Damini (The Wife) seem to fall between the novel and the short story, and should perhaps be called novellas. Trailokyanath Mukhopadhyay’s (1847-1919) collections of stories further enriched the genre of the Bangla short stories. However, his stories, included in Bhut O Manus (The Ghost and the Man), Muktamala (A Pearl Necklace), Majar Galpa (Funny Stories) and Damrucharita (The Life of Damru), are chiefly marked by fantasy. Another early short story writer was Nagendranath Gupta (1861-1940) with his stories of love and romance.
The finest Bangla short story writer of this period was Rabindranath Tagore who is generally regarded as the father of the Bangla short story. His first short story, ‘Bhikharini’ (The Beggar-woman), was published in the bharati magazine in 1874, but it is ‘Denapaona’ (Assets and Liabilities, 1890), which established Tagore’s claim to be acknowledged master of this genre. Tagore wrote 119 short stories, included in Galpaguchchha (Short Stories), Se (He, or She), Tinsabgi (Three Comrades) etc.
Tagore’s short stories are on a variety of themes: love, nature, supernatural events, social issues, psychological relationships etc. Among his stories based on the theme of love are ‘Ekratri’ (One Night), ‘Mahamaya’ (Great Illusion), ‘Samapti’ (The End), ‘Malyadan’ (Garland Offering), ‘Madhyabartini’ (The Mediator), ‘Xasti’ (Punishment), ‘Prayaxchitta’ (Atonement), ‘Duraxa’ (Far Cry), ‘Adhyapak’ (Professor), ‘Nastanid’ (The Ruined Nest), ‘Strir Patra’ (The Wife’s Letter), ‘Patra O Patri’ (The Groom and the Bride), ‘Manbhavjan’ (Winning Over in a Huff), ‘Rabibar’ (Sunday), ‘Xeskatha’ (The Last Word’), ‘Laboratory. His stories based on nature include ‘Xubha,’ ‘Atithi’ (The Guest), ‘Apad’ (Calamity),’ ‘Balai’ etc. The female characters in his nature stories are representations of nature. His stories on social life and psychological relationships are ‘Byabadhan’ (Distance), ‘Megh O Raudra’ (Rain and Shine), ‘Panraksa’ (Wager), ‘Postmaster,’ ‘Kabliwala,’ ‘Didi’ (Sister), ‘Haimanti,’ ‘Karmaphal’ (The Fruit of Work), ‘Dan-Pratidan’ (Exchange), ‘Dena-Paona’ (Assets and Liabilities), ‘Chhuti’ (The Holiday), ‘Putrayajva’ (The Sacrifice of a Son), ‘Khokababur Pratyabartan’ (The Return of the Little Master) etc. His supernatural stories are ‘Guptadhan’ (Hidden Treasure), ‘Jibita-Mrta’ (Dead and Alive), ‘Nixithe’ (At Night), ‘Manihara,’ ‘Ksudhita Pasan’ (The Hungry Tyrant), ‘Master Maxai’ (The Teacher) etc.
Prominent among the short story writers who followed Tagore is Kedarnath Bandyopadhyay (1863-1949), who wrote satirical stories such as, ‘Amra Ki O Ke’ (Who and What Are We?), ‘Kabulati’ (Admission), ‘Patheya’ (Travelling Expense), ‘Duhkher Dewali’ (Dewali of Sorrow), ‘Ma Phalesu’ (No Yearning for Fruits), ‘Sandhya Shabkha’ (The Conch Bangle of the evening) and Namaskari (A Gift of Respect). Pramatha Chowdury was a talented writer, but is seldom regarded as a true short story writer because of his casual attitude towards form. Among his noteworthy collections are Char Yari Katha (Talks of Four Friends), Ahuti (Oblation), Nil Lohita (Shiva) etc.
probhat kumar mukhopadhyay (1873-1932) wrote more than a hundred short stories during 1900 to 1931. His short story anthologies include Nabakatha (New Words), Sodaxi Galpavjali (The Offering of Stories), Galpabithi (The Garden of Stories), Gahanar Baksa (The Jewellery Box), Hatax Premik O Anyanya Galpa (The Star-Crossed Lover and Other Stories) etc. Although many of his works depict the common life of the Bengalis, he also wrote several humorous stories.
sharat chandra chattopadhyay (1876-1938), who is better known for his novels, started his literary career with a short story, ‘Mandir’ (The Temple), and he continued to write short stories such as Kaxinath, Ekadaxi Bairagi (The Stoic), Mamlar Phal (The Verdict) Parex, Bilasi, Mustimeya (A Handful of Things), Abhagir Svarga (The Heaven of the Distressed), Mahex and others. He painted the lives of the deprived in his short stories. Charuchandra Bandyopadhyay (1877-1938) was also a short story writer of note. His short stories are included in Puspapatra (A Plateful of Flowers), Saogat (Gift), Galpapatra (Some Stories), Dhupchhaya (Shades of Smoke), Chandmala (A Garland of Moon), Barandala (An Offering Platter), Manimavjari (Casket of Gems), etc.
roquiah sakhawat hossain (1880-1932), educationist and early feminist, was also a short story writer whose collection of stories known as Matichur is worth mentioning. Manilal Gangopadhyay (1888-1929) published several volumes of short stories such as Jhapi (The Wicker Basket), Papdi (Petals), Jalchabi (Pictures), Kheyaler Khesarat (The Price of Whims) etc. But his stories lack maturity. The short stories of bibhutibhushan bandyopadhyay (1894-1950) are fraught with imagination and intense feeling. Among his volumes of short stories are Meghamallar (The Meghamallar Raga), Mauriphul (The Mauri Flower), Yatribadal (Change of Passengers), Janma O Mrtyu (Birth and Death), Kinnardal (The Demigods), Benigir Phulbadi, Bidhu Master (Master Bidhu), Asadharan (Extraordinary) etc.
tarashankar bandyopadhyay’s (1898-1971) stories are mainly on rural themes. His anthologies include Pasanpuri (The Stone Palace), Nilkantha (Shiva), Chhalanamayi (The Deceptive Lady), Jalasagar (Watery Sea), Raskali (The Mud Streak), Tinxunya (Three Zeroes) etc. Gypsies, patuas (painters), garland-makers, lathiyals (village strongmen wielding sticks), village watchmen, postal runners and others from the working class form the characters of his stories. kazi nazrul islam (1899-1976), who is better known as a poet, also wrote short stories. Among his anthologies are Byathar Dan (Gift of Sorrow, 1922), Shiulimala (The Shiuli Garland, 1931), Rikter Bedan (The Sorrow of the Deprived, 1925). Most of his stories focus upon the love between man and woman.
shailajanananda mukhopadhyay (1900-1976) is famous for his stories of mine workers included in his collections of stories such as Atasi (A sort of golden coloured flower), Badhubaran (Bridal reception), Maranyantra (The Killer Contraption), Narimedh (Female Sacrifice), Dinmajur (Day-labourers) etc. He was the first to use dialects in Bangla short stories. manik bandyopadhyay (1905-1956) was a realist who was influenced by Freud as well as Marx in his writings which explore the intricate psychology of human beings and the social and financial realities of urban life. His collections of short stories include Atasi Mami O Anyanya Galpa (Atasi Auntie and Other Stories, 1935), Mihi O’ Mota Kahini (The Story of Mihi and Mota, 1938), Bau (Wife, 1943), Pragaitihasik (The Prehistorian, 1937), Sarisrp (Serpent, 1939), Samudrer Svad (A Taste of the Sea, 1943), Halud Poda (Burnt Turmeric, 1945), Ajkal Parxur Galpa (Stories of Today and Tomorrow, 1946), Matir Maxul (The Price of the Land, 1948), Chhotabada (The Small and the Big,’ 1948), Shresthagalpa (Best Stories, 1950) Pheriwala (The Peddlar, 1953).
prabodh kumar sanyal (1905-1983) wrote simple but interesting stories. Some of his volumes of stories include Chena O Jana (Acquaintance), Nishipadma (The Night Lotus), Abikal (Resemblance), Abgarag (Cosmetics), Kayek Ghanta Matra (Some Hours Only), Dibachal (The Day), Galpasavchayan (Collection of Stories), Naorabgi, Madhukari, Mas (Month), Nicher Talay (Downstairs), Abgar (Cinder), Kadamatir Durga (A Fort of Earth), Sayahna (Dusk), Pavchatir (Five Arrows) etc. Other writers who became famous in the forties were dakshina ranjan mitra majumder, rajshekhar basu, Saurindra Mohan Mukhopadhyay, balaichand mukhopadhyay, Manoj Basu, and syed muztaba Ali. ‘ [Md. Masud Parvez]
Bangla short story writers upto 1947 were predominantly Hindu, but a few Muslim writers had started emerging as well. Three well-known short story writers of this period are abul mansur ahmed (1898-1979), Abu Rushd (b 1919) and syed waliullah (1922-1971). Apart from rural themes and social issues, their stories were based on topical themes such as the famine of 1943, communal rioting and the tragic consequences of partition. Abul Mansur Ahmed wrote mainly satirical short stories in which he targeted religious fundamentalism. Often anti-social elements constitute the central characters of his stories. His well-known collections of short stories include Ayna (1936), Food Conference (1947) and Asmani Parda (1956). Abu Rushd explored the complexities of urban life in his short stories. His well-known books of short stories are Rajdhanite Jhad (1938), Pratham Jauban (1948), Shadi Badi Gadi (1963) and Mahendra Mistanna Bhandar (1985).
Syed Waliullah’s short stories depict the villages of Bangladesh and their backwardness, social prejudices and religious bigotry. Some of his well-known short stories are ‘Grismer Chhuti,’ ‘Keraya’ ‘and ‘Jahaji. His stories also depict personal conflicts as in ‘Khuni,’ ‘Rakta’ and ‘Stan. His ‘Ekti Tulsi Gachher Kahini’ describes the impact of partition on the lives of ordinary human beings. His two books of short stories are Nayanchara (1945) and Dui Tir O Anyanya Galpa (1965).
Two other short story writers of the time ‘ Fazlul Haque (1916-1949) and somen chanda (1920-1942) ‘ showed exceptional skills in this genre. Galpa, Fazlul Haque’s collection of short stories, edited by shawkat osman, was published posthumously in 1983. Somen Chanda’s two short story books ‘ Samket O Anyanya Galpa (1942) and Banaspati O Anyanya Galpa (1943) ‘ were published before partition and depict the life of the working class.
The political and social unrest of East Bengal in the fifties, particularly, the language movement of 1952, inspired a spate of writings. In the year following the language movement, a collection of writings on the issue, edited by poet hasan hafizur rahman, was published under the title of Ekushey February. It presented important of contemporary literary contributions. Similar collections published afterwards include samakal, Kanthasvar, Purbamegh, Uttaran, Chhotogalpa, Purbapatra, Sampratik, Ganasahitya and Bipratip.
Both old and new writers introduced many new themes in their stories. Prominent writers of this period are ibrahim khan (1894-1978), mahbub-ul alam (1898-1981), abul fazal (1903-1983), abu zafar shamsuddin (1911-1988), Shawkat Osman (1917-1998), sarder jainuddin (1918-1986), abdul haque (1918-1997), shamsuddin abul kalam (1926-1998), Abu Ishaq (b 1926), Ashraf Siddiqi (b 1927), Alauddin Al Azad (b 1932) and zahir raihan (1933-1972). Shawkat Osman and Alauddin Al Azad excelled in introducing a variety of subjects. Their short stories are grounded in social reality and provide a keen perspective on the human condition. Shawkat Osman portrayed a variety of characters in both rural and urban settings. He was scathing in his criticism of hypocrisy and so-called holy men. His short stories are rich in dialogue and inspired by a black humour. At times, however, his stories reveal a deep love of humanity and a tenderness towards ordinary human beings. Some of his well-known short stories are ‘Genhun,’ ‘Junu Apa,’ ‘Thutu,’ ‘Barnamrta’ and ‘Manib O Tahar Kukur. All levels of society are portrayed in his collections of short stories: Junu Apa O Anyanya Galpa, Pinjarapol (1951), Prastarphalak (1964), Netrapath (1968), Ebam Tin Mirza, Manib O Tahar Kukur (1986) and Ixvarer Pratidvandi (1990). Alauddin Al Azad’s writings are inspired by socialistic ideals. At the same time they probe the psychology of characters. His treatment of human sexuality is extremely frank. He is a voluminous writer whose books of short stories include Jege Achhi (1950), Dhankanya (1951), Mrganabhi (1953), Andhakar Sindi (1958), Ujan Tarabge (1959), Jakhan Saikat (1967), Amar Rakta Svapna Amar (1972) and Jibanjamin (1988).
shahed ali’s ‘Jibrailer Dana’ (1953) and Mahbub-ul Alam’s ‘Mafijan’ (1954) are two exceptional short stories, which reflect the poverty-stricken life of people, the use of religion by the state and society, and the social condition of women. Shahed Ali’s story of the little boy who flies his kite, hoping that it will reach the throne of God, is an indictment of society as well as the portrait of an innocent child’s attempt to help his mother improve their sad lot.
Social and political conditions in East Bengal became turbulent in the sixties and the short stories of the period reflect this unrest. The military rule after 1958 and the mass movement of 1969 appear as persistent themes of the stories. Apart from reflecting contemporary events, these short stories also analyse human existence. Among the writers of this period are laila samad (1928-1989), Sucharit Chowdhury (1929-1994), Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury (b 1931), Hasan Hafizur Rahman (1932-1983), Syed Shamsul Huq (b 1935), Shawkat Ali (b 1936), Jyotiprakash Datta (b 1939), Hasan Azizul Haq (b 1939), Hasnat Abdul Hye (b 1939), Rahat Khan (b 1940), Abdul Mannan Syed (b 1943), akhtaruzzaman elias (1943-1997) and Selina Hossein (b 1947). Of them special mention must be made of Syed Shamsul Huq, Shawkat Ali, Jyotiprakash Datta, Hasan Azizul Haq, Abdul Mannan Syed and Akhtaruzzaman Elias for introducing new themes and experimenting with different linguistic styles. Their stories probe the inner depths of their characters and are often realistic depictions of regional life.
Syed Shamsul Huq portrays the crisis in the life of the urban middle class as well as rural life in his short stories collected in Tas (1954), Shitbikel (1959), Raktagolap (1964) and Anander Mrtyu (1967). In his first book of short stories, Unmul Basana (1968), Shawkat Ali emphasized the relationship of man and woman and the psychological complexities of human beings, but settled down to portraying the collective life of the people. He excelled in depicting the life of the downtrodden class of people. Some of his books that deserve mention are Lelihan Sadh (1977), Shuna He Lakhindar (1988) and Baba Apne Yan (1994).
Hasan Azizul Huq has earned international recognition as a short story writer. He is exceptionally successful in his use of language and symbolism. His stories explore the psychological depths of human beings as well as portray the lives of humble peasants. His collections of short stories include Samudrer Svapna Shiter Aranya (1964), Atmaja O Ekti Karabi Gachh (1967), Jiban Ghase Agun (1973) and Patale Haspatale (1981). The realities of the liberation war of Bangladesh are expressed with great artistry in the stories in Namhin Gotrahin (1974). The basic themes of the stories of Joytiprakash Datta and Abdul Mannan Syed are the illusion of reality and surreality, the mystery of human nature and turbulent contemporary life. Jyotiprakash Datta has experimented with structure and idioms in his stories to express the crisis of existence and the complexities of life. His well-known books include Durbinita Pradhan (1965), Bahe Na Subatas (1967) and Sitamxu Tor Samasta Katha (1969). Abdul Mannan Syed introduced complex expressions, exceptional use of vocabulary and poetic qualities in Bangla short stories. Symbolism, surrealism and existentialism distinguish his stories. His well-known short story books are Satyer Mato Badmax (1968), Chalo Yai Parokse (1973) and Mrtyur Adhik Lal Ksudha (1977).
Among the short story writers appearing in the sixties, Akhtaruzzaman Elias was exceptional in every sense of the term. He wrote about both rural and urban life, with the old city of Dhaka finding a special place in his stories. The characters of his stories, motivated by greed or covetousness, love or hatred, cruelty or crudeness, are contemporary and local, and at the same time, universal and timeless. Elias gave the short stories of Bangladesh a new idiom. By mixing colloquial language with refined prose, he created a powerful language for his short stories which was quite different from the prose style of either Bangladesh or West Bengal. His short story books are Anya Ghare Anya Svar (1976), Khonyari (1982), Dudhbhate Utpat (1983), Dojakher Om (1989) and Jal Svapna Svapner Jal (1997). A few other writers who showed individuality include Sayeed Atiqullah, Bashir Al Helal, Rahat Khan, Hasnat Abdul Hye and Selina Hossein.
The sixties were a productive period for short story writing in Bangladesh. A large number of journals devoted to art, literature and culture appeared around this time. At the same time, several foreign books in translation started coming into the country and served to inspire writers. In sheer number of writers this was the most important decade. Although Helena Khan (b 1929), Shahid Akhand (b 1935), Abubakar Siddiq (b 1936), Mahmudul Haque (b 1940), Bulbul Usman (b 1940), Bipradash Barua (b 1942), Hajera Nazrul (b 1942), Ahmad Safa (1943-2001), Jharna Das Purakayastha (b 1945), Farida Hossain (b 1945), Kayes Ahmed (1948-1992) and Humayun Ahmed (b 1948) appeared in the period prior to the liberation war, their fame spread in the post-liberation period. They were a bridge between the two periods.
The short stories of the seventies reflect the experience of the liberation war, the sadness of a broken dream, the unbearable reality of military rule, poverty, unemployment, repression of women and terrorism. The short stories of this period, however, lack the experimentation with structure and style of the writings of the preceding years. The writers of the first decade after liberation are Mohsin Shastrapani (b 1945), Sajjad Qadir (b 1947), Shantunu Kaisar (b1950), Mustafa Panna (b 1952), Bhaskar Chowdhury (b 1952), Manju Sarkar (b 1953), Sushanta Majumdar (b 1954), Imdadul Haque Milan (b 1955), Ahmad Bashir (b 1955), Ishaq Khan (1955), Ahmad Musa (b 1957) and Mainul Ahsan Saber (b 1958). Among others who deserve special mention are Mohsin Shastrapani, Mustafa Panna, Manju Sarkar, Sushanta Majumdar, Ahmad Bashir and Mainul Ahsan Saber. The scenario of the post-liberation rural life of deprivation and exploitation is amply reflected in the work of Mohsin Shastrapani (Janaxruti, 1979), Mustafa Panna (Loksakal, 1984) and Manju Sarkar (Abinaxi Ayojan, 1982).
While many of the older writers continued to write in the eighties and nineties, a number of younger writers started making their mark. The post-liberation urban life of Bangladesh is reflected in the work of Sushanta Majumdar (Chhendakhonda Jami, 1985; Raja Aseni Badya Bajao, 1994; Sharire Shit O Table Gundapanda, 1998), Ahmad Bashir (Anya Patabhumi, 1981) and Mainul Ahsan Saber (Parasta Sahis, 1982; Araksita Janapad, 1983; Agaman Sambad, 1984). Other writers of this period include Abubakar Siddiq (Bhumihin Dex, 1985; Charbinaxkal, 1987; Mare Banchar Svadhinata, 1987), Mahmudul Haque (Pratidin Ekti Rumal, 1994), Ahmad Safa (Nihata Naksatra, 1969) and Kayes Ahmed (Andha Tirandaj, 1978; Laxkata Ghar, 1987).
Since the early nineties, the best literary works of Africa, Latin America and other countries started coming into the Bangladesh market. The unprecedented advancement in technology in media has also allowed both writers and their readers to expand their experience in a variety of fields. This new experience has also affected the literature and brought about significant changes in respect of subject, style and language. The short stories of some of the writers of this decade can be called revolutionary. Among important creative writers of this period are Abu Hasan Shahriar, Anamika Haque Lily, Syed Manzoorul Islam, Bishwajit Chowdhury, Mahibul Aziz, Wahid Reza, Debashish Bhattacharya, Jharna Rahman, Anisul Haque, Manir Zaman, Mamun Hussain, Selim Morshed, Hamid Kaisar, Humayun Malik, Selim Mozahar, Shahnaz Munni, Raziv Noor, Fahmidul Haque, Aditi Falguni, Ahsan Iqbal and Prashanta Mridha. Of them, Mamun Hussain deserves special mention as he has introduced a completely different trend in Bengali short story writing, especially in respect of theme and the art of expression. His collection of short stories, Shanta Santraser Chandmari (1995), has been widely praised. Mamun’s stories fuse reality and the world of fiction with his own philosophical thoughts.
Narayan Gangopadhyay, Sahitye Chhotagalpa (Short Stories in Literature) 3rd ed, Calcutta, 1963; Azhar Islam, Bangladesher Chhotagalpa : Bisay Bhabana Svarup O Shilpamulya, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1996; MZ Hossain, Bangladesher Chhotagalpa: Jiban O Samaj, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1997.