An obituary

Ahmed Sofa: The death of an iconoclast

Alam Khorshed

Ahmad Sofa (1943-2001), the last bastion of hope and honesty in the fast degenerating intellectual arena of Bangladesh, has breathed his last. Thus came to an end, rather abruptly, an extraordinarily eventful life of a supreme creative genius, an unabashed altruist and an undaunted warrior against all forms of injustice and hegemony.

Born in a peasant family of an unknown village of Eastern Bangladesh, Ahmad Sofa embarked upon the struggle for existence rather early in his life working as a bus conductor to bear his cost of education himself. Discovering his genuine talent and thirst for learning a truly benevolent chance acquaintance brought him to the capital city and provided him with shelter and education. Ahmad Sofa made no mistake in making fullest use of this rare opportunity and quickly rose to fame by multifarious manifestations of his intellectual and creative capacity.

A veritable powerhouse of infinite passion and creative energy Ahmad Sofa cultivated with ease all the fields of literary landscape of Bangladesh and produced vast and valuable harvests, both in terms of quality and quantity, which in itself is a rare accomplishment. His epic poem 'ekTi prabeeN baT-er kaachhe praarthanaa' is a unique addition to the realm of Modern Bengali poetry. In fiction he has penned such immortal story as 'Ongkaar', which till today remains the best literary expression of our great language movement. Beginning with his very first novel 'surja tumi saathee', a heart-warming tale of communal harmony, where he experimented boldly with the use of the local dialect of his native Chittagong, he continued breaking new grounds in each of his subsequent fictional works, such as 'alaatachakra', 'ekjan Ali Kenan-er utthaan', 'gaabhee bittaanta', 'pushhpa, brikshha, bihanga puraaN', to name a few, significant both in form and content. Some other noteworthy publications of him include a fascinating translation of the famous German classic Faust by Goethe, 'Bankimchandra: shatabarshher pheraari', a critical study of noted Bengali writer, thinker Bankimchandra and 'jadyapi aamaar guru', an outstanding memoir of his mentor National Proferssor Abdur Razzak.

Apart from his creative output Ahmad Sofa contributed profusely in the rather lacklustre domain of our critical writings too. "Baangaalee Musalmaaner man' and 'buddhibrittir natun binyaas' are two such milestone social observation and original analysis which earned him an unmistakable place in our intellectual community. Closely associated with various peasant movements in the locality during his early youth Ahmad Sofa later on became actively involved with left politics which culminated into his glorious participation in our war of independence in 1971 when he earned the credential of writing the very first book on the emerging nation, titled 'jaagrata Bangladesh'. Thereafter he ceaselessly continued his socio-political writings along with the creative literature, with ever growing devotion and commitment towards his beloved motherland and the fellow countrymen. His quick and courageous pen never failed to register his voice of passion and protest at any and all significant national events. Those numerous timely and yet timeless articles were later collected in several books such as 'raajneetir lekhaa', 'Ahmad Sofa-r raajnaitik o araajnaitik prabandha', 'Sheikh Mujib o anyanya prabandha', 'Taslima o anyaanya sparshakaatar bishhay' etc. Over the years he virtually became the ever-vigilant conscience of the nation, always upholding the truth and justice never caring to please the power and establishment of all kinds.

As a person Ahmad Sofa was next to none. The word simplicity was written all over him. Outwardly he may have been an angry and eccentric intellectual but deep down he was really a child never ceasing to wonder at the beauty and mystery of the world. His giant heart was always overflowing with unadulterated love for the wretched of the earth, which prompted him in countless occasions to go out of the way to help others. He was like a guardian angel, a patron saint, as mentioned by one of his ardent admirers, to the writers of the younger generation, who personally helped many of them in getting their works published. It is worth mentioning here that Ahmad Sofa was instrumental in publishing the very first book of today's popular literary icon Humayun Ahmed as well as that of one of our leading intellectuals Dr. Anisuzzaman. Also not many of us are aware that he was the  sole driving force in establishing and popularizing a truly genius artist like S. M. Sultan in post independence Bangladesh.

Ahmad Sofa was the only person I was fortunate to come in touch with who could and did indeed effortlessly transcend the barrier of race, religion, gender, age, education, social status etc and accept and love a human being on the basis of just that. Above all isms and ideology Ahmad Sofa was a true humanist at heart who literally sacrificed his life for the service of his
motherland and the mankind. Only by emulating his words and action in our own lives can we render the greatest posthumous service to this selfless soul, immaculate and immortal Ahmad Sofa.


August 10, 2001