313 South Capital, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
15th June 1964
Right now I am resting beneath the canopy of a big tree on the bank of this river. It is quite breezy. And 5 dozen cans of beer lie littered. Been watching that blonde girl in swimsuit . Once in a while I am mildly adoring her bottom with my feet—- how does that look visually ? I am literally resting in this state. But I am not part of this scene though. As soon as I bring my palm closer to my eyes, everything disappear. No woman’s face. No hunger. No thirst. But beer—- yes, that is a reality. Have been resting on the grass for hours so to say. Tried at least 5 times to catch a rabbit but failed miserably.
I was in love with your letter for a couple of days. Especially, the words highlighted with red pencil. I knew pretty well that you will not like my story. I have no illusion of delighting you ever with my prose. That is because you have written some great prose at one point. Not any more. But the kind of magic you have produced—- we are simply not nearer to you. I cannot write such prose. I will not write such prose. But that kind of prose pulls me irresistibly. That you will be one of my readers makes me fearful. Still I write prose. Mostly for money. I do not recall indulging in prose but for pecuniary considerations. Once I had written a novel— quite unlikely that it will ever get published. I do not fear you though for my poetry. I write poetry similar to prose and shall continue to do so. I have no qualms about that kind of style. Shakti ( Chattopadhyay ) has written some extraordinary lines. Much, much deeper and greater than me—- that is Shakti. I respect him a lot. But his poems are headless. I cannot write like him and do not want to write like that simply because I do not live that kind of life. I can relate much more to Utpal ( Kumar Basu ). But this, my slumbering in beer, makes me oblivious to all poetry. There is no poetry, no heart, nothing.
Sandipan, why have you not written much in recent times ? What are these quirks of occasional pieces ? This habit of yours has attracted you to the Hungryalist hullabaloo– the latest fad. I had forbidden you. But you did not trust me. And then you quietly distanced yourself from me. I did not stop Shakti. Shakti is greedy. Utpal too has chosen that path. However, I thought you were not that greedy. I have often shared a bed with you, stood in the same shadow while walking in sunlight. I very well have the understanding of my own greed. And, as a result, I could instinctively estimate that your greed is less than mine. I became deeply uncomfortable with, in fact felt strong aversion, to this New Phenomenon. I had always felt that writing poems in English in order to earn cheap accolades from the West is the worst possible example of greed and a manifestation of utter narcissism. This inner feeling has deepened this time after coming here, at Iowa. Would you ever like to be an object of curiosity and pity to non-Bengalis ? I have met some Hungryalists here– it is these people who are attracted to them. Every single day I receive some request or the other to contribute in English. I have been refusing, steadfastly. There are seven crores of potential Bangla readers for me. Much more than French and Italian. I am fine with it. I write poetry and have no intention to translate my sensibilities. If you wish to enter my world of thoughts in English— then get me translated. In gay abandon. I had officially come here to do this kind of quid pro quo back-thumping. Till now I have resisted this trap.
But the real problem with Hungryalism is not English. Their Bengali is even worse. They are trying short-cut narratives — the idea is to taste ready-made fame by criticizing and denigrating others in this business. I hope you do not end up thinking that Malay (Roychoudhury ) has really some authorial qualities in him ! I am amazed because recently I have read in a Hindi literary periodical an eulogizing piece by you about the Hungryalist fad. I was rather surprised that a thinker so abstract as you could consider that contributions in the Illustrated Weekly ( edited by Khushwant Singh ) merit any real literary discussion ! I know the Hungryalist participants have made efforts to challange Krittibas ( periodical ) or Sunil ( Gangopadhyay ). I could have destroyed their Movement. Yes, I could. But I refrained. I am telling you these things because I so much admire you as a writer and thinker. There is no conspiracy in this exhortation of mine, Sandipan.
I could not properly comprehend the events that have been taking place at your end. Why did you write the same letter to four of your friends—- to us ? I could not fully grasp this technique. Nevertheless, who has ordained me the right to understand how your mind functions! That point is that once I return to Kolkata, I shall sleep peacefully, will roam around light-footed quite happily. I do not require any Literary Movement. I was wonder struck to know as to why Malay ( Roychoudhury ) had published my letter. I hope he has not published any truncated version. That will be so out of context. These are the words I recently wrote to him : “If you edit sections of the head or tail of my letters and use some fashionable dotted spaces or some such tricks, I shall box your ears and slap you real hard once I return.” The same is true of your letter. Shakti’s, yours and my dirty linen are being exhibited in public.
However, these are just ephemera—to conclude. No one would dare touch you. And I shall stand by you always. We have fought over many issues, Sandipan. But I did ponder about you pensively ; we can not do without you. I can not. In a simpler way to tell you, you are my obverse. Your split-up, fragmentary character, your follies and your treachery—- to all these qualities I aspire. It is like a life I never had but wished for it so much. Whenever I think of any writer of our generation who has some real promise, I think of you and only you ( except for Tanmay Datta ). There is no one in the city of Kolkata—who will dare touch your delicate being. You lie there softly, oh so softly beside Rina ( Sandipan’s wife ) and keep telling her those adventures to Mars.
I shall reach Kolkata on 18th August. I have been detained here for strange reasons. As a result of my idiocy, yes, really. There is a faint chance of staying in Paris during late July or early August. But prior to that, by mid-July, I shall travel to New York city and thereafter to England. How could you presume that I may join Masters degree course here at Iowa ! You have lost all sense of proportions ! I have troubled you a lot about your narratives in Krittibas, but this time I became apprehensive when I could not find your imprint in the periodical. Any command for me from you to get something from here ?
( Before going to Iowa, Sunil Gangopadhyay was working as Sunday editor of Janasebak news paper owned by Atulya Ghosh, the most powerful Congress syndicate leader at that time. Sunil wrote similar letters to all of his friends who had joined the Hungryalist movement. Sunil, on return to Kolkata, immediately started working against the Hungryalist movement, resulting into arrest and trial of some participants in September 1964. Malay Roychoudhury was sentenced by a lower court for his contribution to a Hungryalist publication. He never forgave Sandipan and made all efforts to block him getting published in the Ananda Bazar Patrika group publications. Sandipan joined a rival newspaper group ‘Aajkal‘. Sunil avoided including Samir Roychoudhury, Malay Roychoudhury’s elder brother, in all anthologies edited by him. Sunil, who is talking about greed of others, went on to write about 1000 books of which 400 are fictions; in fact he became a must in almost all Durga puja publications. He wrote simplistic feel-good poems to be recited in get-together . Sunil Gangopadhyay became greedy to the extent that he started advertizing for constipation medicines as well as mustard oil ! When the Left Front came to power in West Bengal he switched his loyalties from Atulya Ghosh’s Congress Party to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Communist Party [Marxist] )
( The letter was first published in HAOWA49, literary periodical published from Brahmapur, Bansdroni, Kolkata 700 070, in their 43rd issue ( July 2013 ). The photocopy of the letter appeared in CHANDRAGRAHAN magazine published from, Dum Dum, Kolkata 700 030 in their issue of September-October, 2014.