Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Sahitya Akademi awardee passes away in Kolkata

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Kolkata, Nov 7 (IANS) Sahitya Akademi awardee writer Nabaneeta Dev Sen died at her south Kolkata residence on Thursday after battling cancer, family sources said.

Dev Sen, 81, left behind two daughters. She had married in 1959 economist Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel prize in economics 1998.

Dev Sen, ailing for some time, was diagnosed with cancer a year ago. Her condition deteriorated and she could not speak for the last few days. The end came at 7.35 p.m.

According to her family sources, her last journey will start at 11 a.m. on Friday from her residence Bhalo-basa.

A poet, novelist and short story writer, Dev Sen won the Sahitya Akademi award for her book Naba-Nita in 1999, and a year later was honoured with the Padma Shri.

Immensely talented Dev Sen, known for her life force, wit and humour in both personal life and creations, wore multiple feathers in her cap — she was a brilliant student, internationally-acclaimed academician, linguist, polyglot, thinker, liberal, curious globe trotter, mesmerising speaker, and one who fearlessly expressed herself on issues affecting the society and the polity.

Born on January 13, 1938 to the poet-couple Narendra Dev and Radharani Devi, Dev Sen graduated from Presidency College and obtained her M.A. degree from Jadavpur University, before proceeding to Harvard University to do Masters. She completed her PhD from Indiana University and did her post-doctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley and Newnham College, Cambridge University.

Dev Sen joined the comparative literature department of Jadavpur University and retired as a professor in 2002.

Away from the Indian shores, she delivered the Radhakrishnan Memorial Lecture series on epic poetry at Oxford University in 1996-97 and held the Maytag Chair of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at Colorado College in 1988-89.

Her first collection of Bengali poems ‘Pratham Pratyay’ was published in 1959. She has to her credit close to 100 books across literary genre — Bengali poetry, short stories, plays, novels, literary criticism, essays, travelogues, humour and translations.

She also delved into children’s literature, churning out popular and engrossing fairy tales and adventure stories, with girls as protagonist.

She researched for years and analysed “Ramkatha” from Sita’s viewpoint. “Chandrabati Ramayan” is one of her notable works.

Widely feted for her genius and literary contributions, Dev Sen won the Mahadevi Verma award in 1992 and the Kamal Kumari National Award in 2004.

Condoling her death, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, Dev Sen’s death was an irreparable loss to the literary world.

Speaking from the USA, Amartya Sen paid tributes to her. “She was an extraordinary talent, writer, thinker and researcher, with great humane feelings. Her absence will be felt,” he said.

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