As Sudeep Sen prepares to discuss his latest collection of poetry at this year’s Dhaka Lit Fest, there is much for fans and newcomers alike to look forward to in his sessions.
Sen has been publishing poetry for over 30 years. Over the course of his long career, he has seen both commercial – not only in Bangladesh – but also critical acclaim all around the world, with his books translated into over 25 languages.
In a panel discussing his latest publication, Fractals, which covers work spanning the breadth of his ouevre, from poetry to translations, Sudeep Sen will be sitting down with Rosinka Chaudhuri.
Rosinka, herself, is an editor and an accomplished professor at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences. She has been a visitign fellow at Columbia University and Cambridge University, and has edited various publications. She has also been a prominent reviewer for The Book Review and Times Literary Supplement.
One expects that the conversation will, if anything, be an interesting reveal of Sen’s obsession with science, and how he has always attempted to create an amalgamation, to portray a correspondence between art and science in his work.
As explained in the book itself, fractals have multiple meanings, multiple implications. In mathematics, they have to do with fragmented shapes; in physics, with the idea of being broken, fragmented; some use it to explain how, some structures, despite the magnitude in which they are magnified, continue to exhibit the same shapes; and how, in some cases, they are used to convey a sense of brokenness, of fragments, of separation.
It is not surprising that such a behemoth of a publication has been named thus. There is no overarching narrative, but one somehow gets the sense that it exists, nagging at us from behind the subtextual remains of Sen’s psyche.
The book is erratic and dark, but calming, hopeful. And even though it presents so much of Sen’s work, one senses a pattern in it. Encompassed in it are not just poems, not merely translations, but a sense of Sen’s own personality cracking through the pages, as he meets personalities, individuals, erratic characters on haphazard journeys. He visits a dungeon to gaze upon Cezanne’s bones, only to tear us away and places us outside of a castle where “rouge delicacy underlines all that is valuable.”
And the poems themselves appear as literal fractals on the page. The fragmented nature in which they are presented betray an experimental streak in Sen that jumps at us from behind the nooks and crannies of the white sheets, the words seeming to echo, to move as disorganised ants.
The collection, however, is organised into themes. One claims an attachment to briefcases, while another to Mount Vesuvius. But the poetry is intermittently interspersed with staccato jabs of half-caught phrases: “new shapes – art revealed,” “an outline of the psyche,” and “spit atoms … congeal ions.”
And also is interrupted by his mother tongue, and how much his heritage has influenced him. The soft intonations of “didu” and “Rabinidra sangeet,” with the rounded pronunciations and lighter d’s, flow through the sentences, almost adding a layer of thickness across the lines.
But as one reviewer says: “The central ‘self’-similarity, or fractal, of course, is the poet’s own sensibility.” And as one goes deeper, delves further into the plethora of wide-ranging work that Sen has put together in Fractals, one cannot help but feel lost. But there is a profundity that is present in the prose that is not easily caught elsewhere, almost twinged with broken sadness.
And one hopes this sense of profound revelatory sadness is present at the panel this year.
S. N. Rasul is a writer. Follow him on Twitter: @snrasul
First appeared in Dhaka Tribune: http://www.dhakatribune.com/arts-letters/2015/nov/07/patterns-dark