|Born||5 January 1971|
Chandpur, East Pakistan
|Education||PhD in Theatre Studies|
|Alma mater||Dhaka University|
|Genre||Drama, historical fiction, short fiction, novel|
|Notable works||The Black Coat|
|Spouse||He Wen Shu|
Neamat Imam (Bengali: নেয়ামত ইমাম; born 5 January 1971) is a Bangladeshi-Canadian author of literary fiction. His first novel, The Black Coat, was published by Penguin Books India from its Hamish Hamilton imprint in 2013. It is considered the "gold standard for any book which seeks to engage with South Asian politics or history" and a "future classic." He has also authored 2 plays, 2 novellas, and a collection of poetry in Bengali language.
Imam was born in a small agricultural village under the district of Chandpur in Bangladesh. It was a village which had no school, no shops, post-office, mosque and no electricity, for which his lessons in alphabet began in the light of a lantern. His father was an elementary schoolteacher and his mother a housewife. He lost his mother when he was 8 and his father when he was 15. Third among four children of his parents, he was raised by his elder brother and elder sister who were senior to him only by a few years. He first saw a newspaper that his brother brought from his office when he was 13 and sat before a TV set for the first time when he was 14.
Imam's first book, Paravarti Drishya (Bengali: পরবর্তী দৃশ্য: 1996) was a play in Bengali. It was published by Bangla Academy in Dhaka under its Young Writers Project programme. It was followed by 2 novellas, Elephant Road (Bengali: এলিফ্যান্ট রোড: 1997) and Boidik (Bengali: বৈদিক: 1999). Both Elephant Road and Boidik, and his one-act play Nispriho Nishshoron (Bengali: নিস্পৃহ নিঃসরণ: 1993), were first published in Uttaradhiker (Bengali: উত্তরাধিকার), the Bangla Academy journal for creative writing. 11 years after the publication of Boidik, Adorsho Publishers in Dhaka published his first poetry collection Amaar Rashtro Amaar Nagorik (Bengali: আমার রাষ্ট্র আমার নাগরিক: 2010). Imam also adapted 2 British plays for Bangladesh Television (Edward Bond's Stone [পাথর] and John Osborne's Look Back in Anger [ক্ষোভ]), which were starred by such popular actors as Enamul Haque, Lucky Enam, Shirin Bokul and Zamal Uddin Hussain and produced by BTV Director Faridur Rahman.
The Black Coat
Imam's first book in English, The Black Coat, which is also his first novel, was published by Penguin Books India in 2013. A historical novel, it is based on Prime Minister Sheikh Mujib's rule of Bangladesh from 1972 to mid-1975 when he was killed in a military coup. Sheikh Mujib is commonly regarded as Father of the Bengali Nation, but Imam depicts him as the country's first and the deadliest dictator. Imam condemns Bengali nationalists, followers of Mujib, and workers of his party, Bangladesh Awami League, for distorting history to protect Mujib's legacy as a ruler from the attention of the new generation of Bangladesh. He criticises the Sheikh Mujib administration for letting one and a half million people starve to death during and after the Bangladesh famine of 1974, which is at the heart of the story of The Black Coat.
In the first major book review for Outlook India, Indian author Indrajit Hazra called The Black Coat "an extraordinary book ... a fine work of fiction." In his review, entitled "Father And Sons, Or The Lie of the Land," Hazra added, "Very few novels examine a period in history so convincingly even as it turns away from the standard style of historical fiction. Imam does this in this hyper-realistic tale of fools, thugs, dangerous idealism and sanctified pretence, reminding us who have forgotten a secret function of the novel: to unsettle us, instead of just be moving."
Mint, India's business newspaper, called the book "a powerful fictional revisiting of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s troubled legacy in Bangladesh." Reviewer Arunava Sinha went on to say, "Rich with political statements, this is a novel that achieves its intent in a remarkably creative and artistic manner."
It was also reviewed by Deccan Herald, Financial Express, Daily Star, Asian Review of Books, Sunday Guardian, Business Standard and Mail Today. All the journals hugely praised the novel. Asian Review of Books wrote: “Neamat Imam’s first novel, The Black Coat, is pure satire, written with such disarming earnestness that one might neglect to shake it down and dissect its numerous layers.” Financial Express commented that it was "one of the best (novels) to come out of the subcontinent in the recent past.”
- 1996. Paravarty Drishwa Bangla Academy: Young Writers Project
- 1997. Elephant Road Osaca
- 1999. Boidik Sandesh
- 2010 Amaar Rashtro Amaar Nagorik Adorsho
- 2013 The Black Coat Penguin Books India
- The Black Coat, by Neamat Imam, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2013. Imprint Hamish Hamilton, page 256. ISBN 9780670086658. http://www.penguinbooksindia.com/en/content/neamat-imam
- ^ "In the famine-ravaged fields of Bangla, we are all Mujib," by Aditya Mani Jha, The Sunday Guardian, 15 June 2013 http://www.sunday-guardian.com/bookbeat/the-black-coat-by-neamat-imam
- "Where's 'The Black Coat" http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2013/06/08/wheres-the-black-coat
- As presented in his official biography in Bengali. http://neamatimam.com/bangla/neamat/
- Limelight. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1130602/jsp/7days/story_16961846.jsp#.UbL5OUDsZlA
- "Ten trivial tidbits about Neamat Imam." http://neamatimam.com/the-black-coat/faq/
- Reality or Fiction? http://www.financialexpress.com/news/reality-or-fiction-/1144501
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