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Comparative Muslim Societies -- 'Who is this Nazrul?' Cross-border Perplexities in the Study of a Bengali Literary-Cultural Hero by Rachel McDermott

Nazrul Islam, Rachel McDermott, Bengali, Literature, India

Wednesday, March 16 at 4:30 p.m., McGraw Hall, American Studies Wing, Mezzanine Room 101 (enter from north side of the building, between first and second floors).

This talk focuses on the "rebel poet" Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976), who is famed for his poems of 1920s-30s Bengal -- poetry that was fiercely anti-colonial; critical of bigotry, prejudice, communalism, and social injustice; and, by the late 1930s, expressive of devotion to Allah, Kali, and Krishna.  Both beloved and highly controversial in his own day, Nazrul is claimed by the present state of West Bengal in India and by Bangladesh, in the former as a symbol of secularism and in the latter as the National Poet.  Determining the contemporary legacy of this culturally integrated poet and personality brings us to ask an uncomfortable question: has the poet become bifurcated, along with the political and geographic divisions of formerly undivided Bengal?