Syed Shamsul Haq, who died aged 81, was one of the country’s most prolific and brilliant writers. He had been suffering from lung cancer for some time. He was the youngest recipient of the Bangla Academy Award, Bangladesh’s highest literary award. Christians remember him as "a teacher and guide."
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The famous writer Syed Shamsul Haq died last night at age 81 at a hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, after a long bout with lung cancer.
Despite his illness, he continued to raise his voice against the country’s growing Islamic fundamentalism.
After the massacre of foreigners on 1 July at a Dhaka coffee shop that left 20 people dead, he told reporters in an interview, “We achieved a Bangladesh by a bloody way for a secular country where Hindu, Christian, Buddhist and Muslim will live together, but some religious fundamentalists are trying to destroy this harmony. We wanted a fanaticism-free country”.
Syed Shamsul Haq was loved and respected by everyone, regardless of religion. Some Christian writers expressed their deep grief to AsiaNews today.
One of them, Catholic novelist Khakon Corraya said, "He was our teacher, our guide. I learnt about writing style by reading his stories and novels. He could pick up people’s feelings in his writing. I am grateful to him. We are all pained. He will remain in our hearts forever. I pray for his soul."
Haq was born on 27 December 1935. He was one of the country’s greatest wordsmiths, a poet of undisputed talent.
In 1966, at age 31, he was the youngest recipient of the Bangla Academy Award, the country’s highest literary award. In 1984, he won the Ekushey Padak, the highest civilian award, and in 2000, he was honoured with the Independence Day Award.
In his long career as a writer, journalist, poet, essayist, and screenwriter, he also translated into Bengali some great classics of Western literature like William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, The Tempest and Troilus and Cressidra, as well as Peer Gynt by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Abdul Hamid sent messages of condolence.
The president said his death was an irreparable loss for Bangla literature. “The strong writing of Syed Shamsul Haq, a soldier of pro-liberation forces, will show path to the nation forever,” Mr Hamid said.
Shamsul Haq’s body lay in state at the Central Shaheed Minar* in Dhaka with thousands flocking for a final farewell.
An Islamic funeral prayer (Ṣalāt al-Janāzah) was performed in the mosque of the University of Dhaka. Afterwards, the body was taken by helicopter to his birthplace, the village of Kurigram, in northern Bangladesh, where the family will fulfill his last wish: to be buried at the local public university.
* The Shaheed Minar (Martyrs Monument) commemorates those killed during the Bengali Language Movement demonstrations.