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Syed Waliullah

Syed Waliullah was born August 15th, 1922 in Chittagong in a respected Muslim family.

His father, Syed Ahmadullah was a civil servant appointed as a district magistrate during the British Raj Period.

His mother Nasim Ara Khatun passed away when he was twelve leaving behind two young sons, Syed Nasrullah (elder brother) and himself. 

Their father re-married to Zohra Khatun and they had five children together. As the eldest, both the brothers looked after their younger siblings.

Due to his father's profession as a civil servant, Syed Waliullah had the opportunity to travel all over the Bengal widely.

Hence, he had a wide experience of local cultures and acquired knowledge of different Bengali dialects.

Syed Waliullah did his early schooling  in different places of present-day Bangladesh such as Manikganj, Munshiganj, Feni, Dhaka, Kurigram and Mymensingh.

He passed his Matriculation examination in Kurigram High school in 1939, and faced the High Certificate from Dhaka College.

Then, he  persued  his B.A. with distinction from Anandamohon college in Munshiganj in 1943.

He was also admitted to the University of Calcutta to study Economics, but unfortunately, he was unable to finish his studies due to the untimely demise of his father.

Shortly after, he left his family home to start a career. 

In 1945, he joined as a subeditor the daily  'Statesman' for two years, becoming the first non-hindu to be staffed in that prestigious newspaper.

Meanwhile, he founded 'Comrade', a publishing house named and a literary review publication 'Contemporary' where he reviewed contemporary pieces of work literature.

Following the partition of the British Raj in August 1947, he resigned and joined Radio Pakistan as an assistant editor of its Dhaka regional office.

In 1949 he was transferred to Karachi station as a news editor.

After that, he joined the Pakistan civil service first as a Press Attaché in New Delhi from 1951 till 1952.

Then he was posted to Sidney, Australia where he served until 1954.

There he met his french wife Anne-Marie Thibaud where she had been working with the French Embassy.

The couple had two children, Simine and Iraj.

He went back to Karachi where he married her and became Information Officer for two years in Dhaka before returning abroad in Djakarta, Indonesia, where he worked in the Embassy of Pakistan.

He returned once again to Karachi in 1958 where he worked as an officer on special duty at the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting before he left for London in 1959. Then, he was transferred to Bonn, Germany till 1961 and finally moved to Paris, France as First Secretary of Embassy of Pakistan.

In 1967, he was appointed at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, Headquarters in Paris, France)  as a program specialist

When the Liberation War began, he was readily committed to defending his homeland, stepping up contacts and seeking active supports from French intellectuals and government officials. He even went to London to pledge allegiance to the emerging nation's government which was known as Mujibnagar Sorkar (Baidyanathtala).

Syed Waliullah, 1962
Syed Waliullah, Bamiyan
Syed Waliullah with Général de Gaulle

From his early childhood, he had an ambition to become an artist; he wanted to be either a painter or a writer. He eventually dabbled to both the artistic lines.

Though he continuously engaged in both artistic disciplines, he found his true calling and passion in writing.

Throughout his life, he always focused on writing novels, short stories and dramas.

His early literary works were published in the form of short stories such as Nayanchara (1945) while he was still a student in Calcutta.

His most famous book Lal Shalu was published in 1949 at the age of 27.

As a bureaucrat, he couldn't devote himself full time to literature, though he had always wanted to make a living entirely from his art.

Syed Waliullah was awarded and recognized for his works several times. 

1955    Pen Prize   (Bohipir)

1961    Bangla Academy Literary Award for Novels 

1965    Adamjee Prize   (Dui Teer)

1983    Ekushey Padak posthumously 

Sadly he died October 10th, 1971 while he was about to move the now Bangladesh in order to get more involved with the Liberation War.

He was never able to celebrate the birth of his country and embrace his legitimate nationality. His wife Anne-Marie died in 1997.

As a sign of his major contribution to the literature of the Bangladesh, his books have been permanently included in the curriculum since 1982 till now.

Today the works of Syed Waliullah are still well read and popular among generations of Bangladeshis and even abroad and he is considered as one of the prominent classical modern writers of his country.

In 2014, in remembrance of half of his own life spent far from his homeland, the Bangla Academy instituted the "Syed Waliullah Literary Award",

an annual prize to recognize those who contribute to Bangla literature outside of Bangladesh

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