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Nirbachito Column (Selected Columns) is the first major feminist work in Bengali literature. It was published in 1992 and is a collection of essays by exiled Bengali author Taslima Nasrin which were previously published in the newspaper Ajker Kagoj. The author was awarded the Ananda Purashkar, the major Bengali literary award, for the book.
Nirbachito Column (Bengali: নির্বাচিত কলাম) or Selected Columns is a book by renowned Bengali feminist and secular humanist author Taslima Nasrin. It is her best-known work. Her other notable works include Lajja (Shame), Amar Meyebela (My Girlhood), and Dwikhondito (Split into Two) that have been titled as Ka (Speak Up). Besides these books, she has written novels, poems, columns, and stories. Nirbachito Column was the book that first gave her international fame.
The book starts by describing her experience of being tortured by a boy when she was eighteen or nineteen. The boy pressed a half-smoked burning cigarette on her hand and laughed and went away. The column ends with mentioning that once in her city, there were some signboards which mentioned "seek help of cops if ever teasers disturb you". The column says, "it did not work out. Probably the teasers eradicated those signboards along with the stamps. As long as those signboards existed, teasers used to stand leaning on the wooden posts of those and whistle at girls. And the most ironic thing is, once, girls had to seek help of those teasers to protect themselves from the teasing of cops." The book has a number of such excellent columns that describe how women suffer in a male-dominated society.
A reading from the book by the author herself, and a recitation of her one romantic poem by Bratati Bannerjee.
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This is the first Bengali book ever that criticized Islam and Prophet Muhammad directly. The book includes criticism of Hinduism, too. The book inspired so many women, while angered so many fundamentalists, at the same time. This is the first Bengali book ever where a woman talks about sex without any hesitation. Sex discussion is still a taboo in Bangladesh. Columns that are presented in this book were written between 1989-1990. These columns revived the feminist struggle in Bangladesh after almost one century of Begum Roquia Sakhawat Hussain. And still these columns remain the bravest work by a Bengali woman, so far. Being a woman, no one could still beat the courage of Taslima Nasrin in either West Bengal and Bangladesh.
In 1989 Taslima Nasrin was invited by then editor Naimul Islam Khan (later her husband) to write columns for the popular newspaper Ajker Kagoj. Taslima Nasrin replied, "Sorry, I don't know how to write a column." Khan replied, "Don't worry. Write anything that comes to your mind."
While Taslima Nasrin was thinking about a subject to write about, her gaze fell on her right hand. She noticed a scar and remembered about the boy who pressed the cigarette on her hand, that left the black mark there. Then she took the pen and wrote about the event. She was still uncertain about whether the essay was really acceptable, but she submitted it, mentioning "I don't know the method of writing column. I just wrote about an experience of my own life."
She was unsure about whether the column would really be published or not. To her surprise, when the column came out in the newspaper, it grabbed the attention of many readers, and then she was invited to write columns regularly. Sales of the newspaper rose whenever she wrote an article.
In 1991, reputed publisher Mujibur Rahman Khoka, who was a friend of Taslima Nasrin, offered to publish a book on her columns, which she agreed to. After publication, the book became a best seller and one of the major masterpiece of feminist literature in Bengali.
When the book was declared for Ananda Award, she informed the award committee that the book contains a column where she copied a write-up of Sukumari Bhattacharya on Vedas. But the committee did not take it as a big deal, probably because she herself confessed about it. But anti-Taslima hypocrites still argue, and try to prove that she is a dishonest writer because of it. In the anti-women environment of Indian sub-continent, many do not care about her honest confession.
This is probably the major controversy about this book. Besides it, Muslim fundamentalists also blame her for criticizing Islam in this book, as usual. They declare that she presented Islam negatively, without understanding Quran and Hadith properly. This is nothing new, though. Every last person who criticized Islam ever are blamed for "presenting Islam negatively without understanding Quran and Hadith properly."
Writing this book is one of the major causes why fundamentalists issued fatwa on her head, too.
After the book got Ananda Award, many intellectuals of Bangladesh started to feel jealous toward Taslima Nasrin. Many well-wishers and friends of her turned into her enemies in just moments, and started to spread rumors and gossip about her. This is the first time she was tagged as a "C-grade writer" by some of her former writer friends who were unhappy with her getting the prize.
1. Taslima Nasrin's official website - http://taslimanasrin.com
2. The book on Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Selected-Columns-Taslima-Nasreen/dp/8188575283
3. The Hindi version of the book on Pustak - http://pustak.org/bs/home.php?bookid=2129
4. The Marathi translation of the book on Granthalaya - http://granthalaya.org/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=141800
5. The Marathi translation of the book on Flipkart - http://www.flipkart.com/nirbachit-kalam-taslima-naasreen-book-8177661817
6. Review by Aradhika Sekhon - http://www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20040822/spectrum/book4.htm