Acclaimed Bengali writer Buddhadeb Guha passes away at the age of 85

Published : August 30, 2021 19:45 IST

Buddhadeb Guha (1936-2021). Photo: PTI

Buddhadeb Guha, one of West Bengal’s most acclaimed novelists, passed away on the night of August 29 following a prolonged illness after contracting COVID in April this year. He was 85 and is survived by two daughters. Guha, a successful chartered accountant by profession, was one of the most popular Bengali writers whose romantic novels and stories relating to nature, particularly forests, captivated readers for more than 50 years. His books for young adults, particularly the Rijuda stories—a series on Rijuda, a hunter-turned-conservationist—was also an evergreen favourite among not only teenagers but also adults.

Guha may not have written much on political issues, but his forte was stories about human relationships, adventure, nature and human relationship with nature. According to Sampa Sen, Professor of Bengali Literature, in his love for nature, Guha was the direct inheritor of the literary legacy of the great Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. Sen told Frontline: “After Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay, it is in Buddhadeb Guha’s writings that we see such love for nature, particularly forests. His characters also seem to be one with nature, and he would often take his characters out of the urban setting and place them in some remote forest region amid forest dwellers and tribals. Forest is a recurrent motif in most of his works. He has also shown the relations and connections between the city people and the tribal people or forest dwellers. Another important subject in his writing was romantic love in human relationships. Those writings were so lyrical that the line between poetry and prose was often blurred. He was among the last of the great popular writers of Bengal. With his death only two such great figures are left—Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay and Sankar.”

Guha was also among the highest selling authors in the 1980s and 1990s. “He had made such an impact on a generation of readers that many even named their children after characters created by Buddhadeb Guha, like Rivu, Riju, Rishi etc,” said Sen. Guha’s character Rijuda is as iconic a figure in Bengali literature as Kakababu, created by Sunil Gangopadhyay, or Gogol by Samarash Basu.

Born in Kolkata on June 29, 1936, Guha graduated from St Xavier’s College and had a successful career as a chartered accountant. His great love for literature also made him one of the most prolific writers in Bengali. Some of his major works include Madhukori, Koeler Kachhe, Babli, Kumudini, Khela Jokhon, Rijuda and Jangalmaha. In 1976, he won the Ananda Puraskar for his Holud Basanta.

In April this year, Guha was hospitalised for 33 days after contracting COVID. Reacting to his death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on social media: “Shri Buddhadeb Guha’s writings were multifaceted and displayed great sensitivity to the environment. His works were enjoyed across generations, particularly among youngsters. His passing away is a big loss to the literary world. Condolences to his family and admirers.” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee posted: “Deeply pained by the demise of Buddhadeb Guha, one of the most celebrated authors of Bengal. He leaves behind a huge void in Bengali literature. My sincere condolences to his family and fans.”