Hungryalist Movement: When People Took Their Fight Against The Government Through Poetry

Md Imtiaz

June 29th, 2016

image source: hungryderphoto

Post independence, Bengal was caught between a tumultuous time after the bleak era of the partition. The gradual inflow of the displaced people was taking a major toll on the social fabric of Bengal, with a rise in poverty, hunger and death. The milieu was rearing a young brigade among the middle-class Bengalis who went all out against the government not with their weapons, but with their blunt blow of pen and paper mingling into poetry. Thus gave rise to avant-garde Hungryalist movement in Bengali.

 

The Hungryalist or the hungry generation movement  was a literary movement in Bengali that was launched in 1961, by a group of young Bengali poets. It was spearheaded by the famous Hungryalist quartet — Malay Roychoudhury, Samir Roychoudhury, Shakti Chattopadhyay and Debi Roy. They had coined Hungryalism from the word ‘Hungry’ used by Geoffrey Chaucer in his poetic line “in the sowre hungry tyme”. The central theme of the movement was Oswald Spengler’s idea of History, that an ailing culture feeds on cultural elements brought from outside. These writers felt that Bengali culture had reached its zenith and was now living on alien food.

 

Contribution to Bengal’s literature

The movement shook the roots of the Bengali literary and cultural establishment in India. The poets significantly brought about a change in the language and vocabulary used in Indian literature.The Hungryalists wanted to disturb the reader’s mind that was filled with preconceived colonial ideas. That’s why it became one of most controversial movement during its time and faced huge criticism from the upper class of the society and government. The movement was joined by other young poets like Utpal Kumar Basu, Binoy Majumdar, Sandipan Chattopadhyay, Basudeb Dasgupta, Falguni Roy, Tridib Mitra and many more. Their poetry spoke the displaced people and also contained huge resentment towards the government as well as profanity.

 

Government chokes their voice

On September 2, 1964, arrest warrants were issued against 11 of the Hungry poets. The charges included obscenity in literature and subversive conspiracy against the state. The court case went on for years, which drew attention worldwide. Poets like Octavio Paz, Ernesto Cardenal and Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg visited Malay Roychoudhury. The Hungryalist movement also influenced Hindi, Marathi, Assamese, Telugu & Urdu literature. The government’s decision to crack a whip on the poets slowly saw them leaving the movement out of fear. Later the ultra-leftist student movement by the Naxalites also brought about the end of the Hungry generation. It is still remembered as one of the greatest literary movements in the world.

 

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