|Tree Without Roots
edited by Niaz Zaman with an Introduction by Serajul Islam Choudhury
ISBN 984 32 2546 5 2005 150pp 215x136mm HB Tk.350.00 US$23.00
Tree Without Roots is the English translation/transcreation of Syed Waliullah’s classic novel Lal Shalu. With no land or skills to support himself otherwise, Majeed preys upon the simple rural folk by exploiting religion, becoming the self-appointed guardian of a mazar, which he claims is that of a saint. Not satisfied with his first wife, he marries again, this time a woman who is not as amenable as his loving first wife. The portrait of the two women and their relationship to each other and to Majeed balances Waliullah’s portrait of the charlatan. In the English version, now generally believed to be by Syed Waliullah himself, Majeed acquires a certain grandeur at the end, returning alone to the mazar in the midst of raging flood waters. A picture of rural Bangladesh in the early forties, Tree Without Roots also provides a picture of eternal Bangladesh subject to the ravages of nature, of storms and floods, of cyclones and dying rivers.
Though critical of the exploitation of religion, Syed Waliullah looks sympathetically at Majeed for whom religion means food and shelter. Told in Syed Waliullah’s simple, idiomatic and occasionally lyrical English, Tree Without Roots is imperative reading for any one interested in knowing the Bengali mind and the impact of religion and superstition on the rural populace.
Syed Waliullah was born on 15 August 1922 at Sholashahar in Chittagong. He did not live to see the liberation of his motherland, passing away in Paris on 10 October 1971.
Syed Waliullah’s first novel, Lal Shalu (1948), was followed by two other novels: Chander Amabasya (1964) and Kando Nadi Kando (1968). He also wrote short stories, some of which have been anthologized in Nayan Chara (1951) and Dui Tir O Anyanya Galpa. His three plays are Bahipir (1960), Tarangabahanga (1964) and Sudanga (1964). Waliullah received several literary awards, including the Ekushey Padak posthumously.
Niaz Zaman, Professor of English at the University of Dhaka, is a well-known writer, translator, and literary critic. Her published work includes A Divided Legacy: The Partition in Selected Novels of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, The Crooked Neem Tree, and The Dance and Other Stories. She was editor of the Bangladesh Journal for American Studies and consulting editor, Arts and Humanities, for the Encyclopedia Project of the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.