How I Became a Writer
Manoranjan Byapari with Arunava Sinha
Manoranjan Byapari writes in Bengali. He was born in the mid-fifties in Barishal, Bangladesh. His family migrated to West Bengal in India when he was three. They were resettled in Bankura at the Shiromanipur Refugee Camp. Later, they were forced to shift to the Gholadoltala Refugee Camp, 24 Parganas, and lived there till 1969. However, Byapari had to leave home at the age of fourteen to do odd jobs. In his early twenties, he came into contact with the Naxals and with the famous labour activist Shankar Guha Niyogi, founder of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha at the Dalli Rajhara Mines, who were leading a revolution to reclaim lands of the tribals from feudal lords who had captured them by unfair means. Byapari was sent to jail during this time, where he taught himself to read and write. Later, while working as a rickshaw-puller in Kolkata, Byapari had a chance meeting with the renowned Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi, who urged him to write for her journal Bartika. He has published twelve novels and over seventy short stories since. Some of his important works include Chhera Chhera Jibon, Ittibrite Chandal Jibon (memoir), Amanushik, the Chandal Jibon trilogy (novels), Anya Bhubon and Motua Ek Mukti Senar Naam. Until 2018, he was working as a cook at the Hellen Keller Institute for the Deaf and Blind in West Bengal.
In 2014, Byapari was given the Suprabha Majumdar Prize, awarded by the Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi. He also received the Sharmila Ghosh Smriti Literary Prize in 2015. In 2018, the English translation of his memoir, Ittibrite Chandal Jibon (Interrogating My Chandal Life), received the Hindu Prize for non-fiction and was shortlisted for the Jio MAMI Word to Screen Award. In 2019, he was awarded the Gateway LitFest Writer of the Year. Also, the English translation of his novel There’s Gunpowder in the Air was shortlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature 2019, the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019, the Crossword Prize for Best Translation 2019, and the Mathrubhumi Book of the Year Prize 2020. He was recently appointed chairman of the newly instituted Dalit Sahitya Akademi in Bengal. Several of his books will be appearing in Bengali, English, Hindi and Malayalam in 2021. Two of his novels will be published in the US by the independent publisher AntiBooks Club in 2022.
His book Imaan has been shortlisted for the JCB Prize.
Arunava Sinha translates classic, modern and contemporary Bengali fiction and nonfiction into English. Seventy-one of his translations have been published so far. Twice the winner of the Crossword translation award, for Sankar’s Chowringhee (2007) and Anita Agnihotri’s Seventeen (2011), respectively, and the winner of the Muse India translation award (2013) for Buddhadeva Bose’s When The Time Is Right, he has also been shortlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction prize (2009) for his translation of Chowringhee and for the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative Translated YA Book Prize for his translation of Md Zafar Iqbal’s Rasha, and longlisted for the Best Translated Book award, USA, 2018 for his translation of Bhaskar Chakravarti’s Things That Happen and Other Poems. In 2021, his translation of Taslima Nasrin’s Shameless was shortlisted for the National Translation Award in the USA. Besides India, his translations have been published in the UK and the US in English, and in several European and Asian countries through further translation. He is an associate professor of practice in the Creative Writing department at Ashoka University, and Co-Director, Ashoka Centre of Translation.