Nabaneeta Dev Sen

(13 January 1938 - / Kolkata / British India)

Biography of Nabaneeta Dev Sen

Nabaneeta Dev Sen poet

Nabaneeta Dev Sen is an award-winning Indian poet, novelist and academic.

Personal Life

Dev Sen was born in Kolkata, to the poet-couple Narendra Dev and Radharani Devi. In addition to Bengali and English, she reads Hindi, Oriya, Assamese, French, German, Sanskrit, and Hebrew.[citation needed] In the very next year of obtaining her Master degree she was married to Amartya Sen. In 1976 they were divorced and she went abroad for higher studies. Dev Sen lives in Kolkata, in her parental house Bhalo-Basa, where she was born, now declared a Heritage Building. She has two daughters Antara Dev Sen and Nandana Sen with former husband economist Amartya Sen, and one adopted daughter, Srabasti.

Educational Background

She graduated from Presidency College and received her Masters degree from Jadavpur University, Calcutta; and a Masters with Distinction from Harvard University. She earned her Ph.D from Indiana University.

Dev Sen completed her post-doctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley; and Newnham College, Cambridge University. She was also a University Grants Commission Senior Fellow at University of Delhi.

Professional Background

Dev Sen has been a writer in residence at several international Artists' Colonies, including Yaddo and MacDowell Colony in the United States; Bellaggio in Italy; and the Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem.

She has been a visiting professor and a visiting creative writer at several universities in the United States, including Harvard, Cornell, Rutgers, Columbia, Smith College, and Chicago. In Canada, she has been visiting professor at Toronto, York, and British Columbia. Other countries where she has participated as professor include Mexico, England, Germany, France, and Japan.

Dev Sen has delivered the Radhakrishnan Memorial Lecture series (1996–1997) at Oxford University on epic poetry.

She has held the Maytag Chair of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at Colorado College 1988–1989.

She has represented herself and India in many international conferences, both academic and literary. These conferences have been presented at the Festival of India USA 1986; the Frankfurt Book Fair 1993; and the Munich Book Week 2002.

She has held important executive positions in International academic bodies like the International Comparative Literature Association (1973–1979), and The International Association of Semiotic and Structural Studies (1989–1994). She has been the Vice President of Indian National Comparative Literature Association; chief editor of Bengali in the Macmillan's Modern Indian Novel Series. She has also served as Member of the Jury of important literary awards including the Jnanpith award, Saraswati Samman, Kabir Samman, and Rabindra Puraskar.

Dev Sen is the Vice President of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishat. She is the founder and president of West Bengal Women Writers' Association.

In 2002, Dev Sen retired as Professor of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, Calcutta. She has been working with the treatment of women in world epics and the treatment of epic poetry by rural women in India.

Dev Sen was nominated as the JP Naik Distinguished Fellow at the Centre of Women's Development Studies, New Delhi, 2003–2005, where she is translating Chandrabati's 16th century Bengali Ramayana text into English with a critical introduction and annotations.

Published Works

Dev Sen has published more than 80 books in Bengali: poetry, novels, short stories, plays, literary criticism, personal essays, travelogues, humour writing, translations and children’s literature. Her first collection of poems Pratham Pratyay was published in 1959.

Dev Sen deals with a wide variety of social, political, psychological problems like the role of the intellectuals in the Naxalite movement, (Ami Anupam, 1976), identity crisis of the Indian writing in English (1977), that of the second generation NRIs (1985), breakdown of the joint family, life in old age homes (1988), homosexuality (1995), facing AIDS (1999, 2002), child abuse, and obsession, uprootedness, immigration and exile in her novels, often using women as her central characters.

Dev Sen's short stories and travelogues are a rare combination of fine humour, deep human concern, and high intellect, which has made her a unique figure in the Bangla literary scene. Her first short story collection was Monsieur Hulor Holiday (1980). Travelogues like Karuna tomar kon path diye and Truckbaahane Myakmahane have become classics in Bengali literature. Additional notable works include Bama-bodhini; Nati Nabanita; Srestha kabita; and Sita theke suru.

She is a well-known children’s author in Bengali for her fairy tales and adventure stories, with girls as protagonist. She has also written prize-winning one-act plays.

Nabaneeta Dev Sen's Works:

Bengali Publications

Jara Hatke ebong Ananya. Vikalp, 2000; Short stories
Baranda. Kolkata : Vikalp Prakasani, 2000. Short stories.
Ghulghuli. Kolkata : Camp, 2000. Autobiographical reminiscences
Buddhi Bechara Saodagar. Kalikata : Anjali Prakasani, 1999. Children's stories.
Thikana. Kolkata : Dey's Publishing, 1999. Novel.
Icchamati. Kolkata : Ananda Publishers, 1999. Children's stories, illustrated by Satyajit Ray.
Deshantar, Mitra-Ghosh, Kolkata (1997).
Palashpurer Picnic, Dey's Publishing, (1997). Children's stories.
Galpasamagra. Kolkata : Dey's Publishing, (1997). Short stories.
Bamabodhmi. Deb Sahitya Kutir, Kolkata (1996). Novel
Naba NeeNirbachita Rachana Sankalan. Kolkata: Mitra o Ghosh Publishers, (1996). A compilation of 2 novels, 2 travel narratives, 1 play, 3 essays, 2 autobiographical reminiscences, 6 short stories, 12 poems, 6 articles of literary criticism.
Sabda pare tapur tupur. Kolkata : Ananda Publishers, 1995. Essays.
Bhalobasa kare koy. Kolkata : Dey's Publishing, 1992. Short stories.
Khagenababura prthibi ebong anyanya. Kolkata : Deja Pabalisim, 1997. Short stories.
Sita Theke Shuru. Ananda, Calcutta 1996.
Medea Ebang, Ananda, Kolkata (1993). Play.
Sheet sahasika hemantaloka. Kolkata : Ananda Publishers, 1397 [1990]. Novel.
Nabanita Debsener sreshtha kabita. Kolkata : Dey's Publishing, (1989). Poems.
Tin Bhubaner Parey, Mitra-Ghosh, Kolkata (1989). Travelogue.
Swabhumi, Ananda, Calcutta, 1984.
Nati Nabaneeta. Kolkata : Ananda, 1983. Autobiographical essays
Truck-Bahoney MacMahoney, Ananda, Kolkata (1981). Travelogue.
Monsieur Hulor Holiday. Kolkata : Karuna Prakasani, 1980. Short stories.
Ami, Anupama. Isana, Kolkata. (1978). A novel.
Isvarera pratidvandvi ebong anyanya prabandha. Bengali literature--History and criticism. Karuna Prakasani, Kolkata, 1978.
Karuna Tomar Kon Path Diye, Karuna Prakasani, Kolkata (1978). Travelogue.

English Publications

Counterpoints: Essays in Comparative Literature, Prajna, Calcutta. 1985.

English Articles & Short Stories

The stream within : short stories by contemporary Bengali women. Stree Press, Calcutta, 1999. Edited by Swati Ganguly and Sarmistha Dutta Gupta.
Faces of the feminine in ancient, medieval, and modern India. Oxford University Press, New York, 2000. Edited by Mandakranta Bose.
New visions of creation :feminist innovations in literary theory. University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo, 1993. Edited by Maria Elena de Valdes & Margaret R. Higonnet.
India, a wealth of diversity.Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, Tulsa, 1988. Edited by Amritjit Singh & Francine Ringold.

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When It Rains

When it rains it seems the room itself turns blue, trembles
and falls like rain, as if endless time coming from nowhere
fills the room, as if endless wind blowing in
carries the room to the riverbank;
turning into a boat, I float
I get soaked; swaying, shivering, I keep
moving; in the distance one can see the line where
the river meets the sea, as if
all around waves hiss, as if there’s nobody around

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