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Winner of the prestigious Bangla Academy Literature Award in 1976 plus other notable literary and cultural awards in South Asia and North America, Dilara Hashem has maintained a steady literary output for four decades, totaling some 30 volumes of novels, memoirs, short stories, poetry and translations.

Her 1966 debut novel Ghor Mon Janala (Home, Heart, Window) was a major success for the young wife, mother and recent graduate of Dhaka University (M.A. Honors in English Literature). Recognized as the first significant contemporary urban Bangla novel set in the then East Pakistan, Ghor Mon Janala garnered critical and poular praise and became a feature film in Bangladesh (1993). It was further published in Russian in Moscow and Chinese in Beijing (the latter translation, in 1996 a first for any Bangladeshi novel).


 

To what does she ascribe this early success?

"I was born with two blessings," Dilara responds.

"First, what the American writer Elizabeth Hardwick has called the greatest gift - a passion for reading."

Young Dilara devoured the Bengali classics, then foreign works in translation - especially Russian masters like Dotyevsky, Turgenyev, Tolstoy and Gorky.

"My second, and the major, blessing was to be born in a large and lively family (2 brothers and 5 sisters) presided over by loving, cultured, hard-working parents."

Family provided stimulation and subjects for such well-received works as Amlokir Mou (Bitter Sweet, 1980: also a Bangladesh Television series) and the autobiographical novel of childhood, Kakataliya (Coincidence, 1981).

Meanwhile, the pressures of history and politics have led to repeated personal uprooting, relocations, and emigration. Dilara translated these experiences into contemporary novels of the most varied subject and setting, from contemporary Pakistan - the epic Chandragrohan (Lunar Eclipse, 2002) - to recent New York - the "novel in dialogue" Sesh Rater Songlap (Twin Towers, 2003).

Besides Literature, Dilara has from the beginning also made time for a professional career as a newsreader and international broadcaster at Radio Pakistan (where she was a national newsreader), Radio Bangladesh, the BBC London and   - since coming to the USA in 1972 - the Voice of America. In the cultural sphere, Dilara's love of Bengali music led her to vocal study; she subsequently performed light classical music on air and released a number of recordings for EMI Pakistan in the 1960s.

Today Dilara Hashem continues to maintain her dual career as international broadcaster and as woman writer exploring the themes of society and the evolving position of women in different global settings. She still relishes informal music -making, good company, good food and good films, whether from Hollywood, Bollywood or the European classics.


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Links

Ekleksographia is an independent international poetry magazine
Selected poems by Dilara Hashem and translated by Carolyne Wright

VOA News.com
Dilara Hashem interviews American poet and author Carolyne Wright