Kabir Chowdhury

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Kabir Chowdhury
কবীর চৌধুরী
Born Abul Kalam Mohammad Kabir Manik
(1923-02-09)9 February 1923
Brahmanbaria, British Raj (now Bangladesh)
Died 13 December 2011(2011-12-13) (aged 88)
Naya Paltan, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Occupation educationist, writer, translator
Nationality Bangladeshi
Alma mater University of Southern California
University of Minnesota
Dhaka University
Genre essay, translation, literary criticism
Notable awards
Spouse Meher Kabir
Relatives Munier Chowdhury (brother)
Ferdousi Mazumder (sister)

Kabir Chowdhury (Bengali: কবীর চৌধুরী; 9 February 1923 – 13 December 2011) was a well-known academic, essayist, materialist, translator, cultural worker, civil society activist and a pioneer in the movement against fundamentalism in Bangladesh.[1][2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Kabir Chowdhury was born in Brahmanbaria of the then Tipperah district of United Bengal where his father was working as a civil servant. He grew up in an atmosphere of liberal ideas and secular thinking. His family hailed from Chatkhile of Noakhali[4] district of Bangladesh and his father was a devout Muslim free from any trace of religious fanaticism. Kabir's many close friends in school belonged to the Hindu community. When he studied English literature at the Dhaka University in the early 1940s he was greatly impressed by the writings of H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell, among others. During the second World War he was deeply troubled by the Nazi atrocities carried out in their concentration camps, the mass killing of Jews as a plan of ethnic cleansing and the destruction of all democratic norms. Kabir's faith in democracy, secularism and liberal thoughts grew stronger by the day and he found himself drawn to socialist ideology.[5]

Educated at the universities of Dhaka, Minnesota and Southern California, Kabir Chowdhury worked for over half a century in the fields of education, peace and inter-cultural understanding in several national and international organisations like Afro-Asian Writers Union, Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization, International Theatre Institute, UNESCO National Commission and Bangladesh Chapter of the World's Peace Council.


He has written extensively on world's famous writers and painters. He has also written extensively on peace and conflict resolution through discussion and has tried to promote these values by his work as a teacher and as an administrator. He taught at Dhaka College (Dhaka) and B. M. College, Barisal (as Principal) and few years at University of Dhaka as a Professor of English. He has worked as the Secretary, Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs & Sports, Government of Bangladesh before his voluntary retirement from government service. He was inducted as National Professor of Bangladesh in 1998.[2]

Kabir was a member of the Presidium of the Bangladesh World Peace Council and headed the Bangladesh-Soviet Friendship Society for over a decade. He was the president of the Bangladesh Vidyasagar Society and chairman of the Advisory Council of Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee (Committee for Resisting the Killers and Collaborators of 1971). In all the above capacities he has significantly contributed to the dissemination of secular ideas and democratic values. His ideology is materialism. He has written extensively on anti-fundamentalism, religious fanaticism and communalism, and has stressed the need for developing broad human values and for realising the importance of cultural diversity, and the imperatives for developing a pluralistic society.[5]

In his long career Chowdhury spoke at many national and international meetings of writers and social activists on literature, socialism, secularism and democracy. He addressed gatherings in Germany, Russia, USA, Bulgaria, Angola, Japan, Pakistan and India. He had the privilege of meeting Nelson Mandela, Yassir Arafat, Agostinho Neto and Kim Il Sung. In a conference of the World Federation of UN Associations held in Barcelona which he attended as the representative of Bangladesh UN Association (he was its chairman for several years), he worked alongside Nobel Peace winner Lord Philip Noel Baker and the distinguished pacifist Sean Mac Bride. Among famous writers, he worked closely with Pakistan's Faiz Ahmed Faiz, India's Visam Sahni, Palestine's Mahmood Dervish and USA's Edward Albee.[2]

Professor Chowdhury played a leading role in many movements in Bangladesh, especially in the anti-communal movement, movement to establish democracy, and significantly in the movement to ensure the trial of those who had committed crimes against humanity and war crimes during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.[6]

Published work[edit]

Why boast of your caste or religious community?

What does it do for you in this world or in the next? Sometimes I feel like shoving into its mouth a burning faggot.

For nothing I bore this cross all my life. Turning into an honourable man, I clearly saw all the trickery that lay behind the glosy of high position and noble birth

— Kabir Chowdhury's English translation of Panju Shah's song[7]

Bengali translations[edit]

  • চেখভের গল্প (Chekov's stories, 1969)
  • সমুদ্রের স্বাদ (১৯৭০)
  • গ্রেট গ্যাটসবি (The Great Gatsby, 1971),
  • দি গ্রেপস অব র‌্যথ (The Grapes of Wrath,1989)
  • রূপান্তর (The Metamorphosis,1990)
  • বেউলফ (১৯৮৫)
  • অল দি কিংস মেন (১৯৯২)
  • দি গার্ল উইথ এ পার্ল ইয়ার রিং (২০০৭)
  • গল্প উপন্যাসে প্রতিকৃতি চিত্র (২০০৭)


For his contribution to education, literature and civil society movements, Kabir Chowdhury was nationally and internationally honoured. Among the numerous awards he received are:


  1. ^ "National Professor Kabir Chowdhury Turns 89". The Daily Star. 9 February 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "National Professor Kabir Chowdhury, Chairman, National Finance limited". Reflection News. 29 June 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  3. ^ "Kabir Chowdhury Passes Away". The Daily Star. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "Kabir Chowdhury no more". The Daily Star. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Prof. Kabir Chowdhury: Voice of Secular Democracy". www.SecularVoiceOfBangladesh.org. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  6. ^ "Kabir Chowdhury passes away". The Daily Star. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  7. ^ Folk Poems from Bangladesh. Dhaka: Bangla Academy. February 1985. p. 21. 

External links[edit]