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Past Connections with a Prospective Future: An account of Bangla Science Fiction

True science fiction could not really exist until people understood the rationalism of science and began to use it with respect in their stories– Issac Asimov  



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Our study starts at a time that goes back a little beyond a century, though most would fray at the mention of the 1880s as a time when science fiction started branching out from the mainstream romanticism and devotional compositions. Blame it upon the budding industrialization in Bengal or the overly imaginative mind of the Bengali clan, fact remains that science fiction was not a separate branch that came into existence out of the blue; those who are little acquainted with the Epics Ramayana and Mahabharata confronted it at a time long back thay can even remember. But those were the stories of the Homo Superiors; equating the existence of average humans was not only kind of weird to the mass but was also considered an absolute act of heresy. Though we are not quite sure whether people used to relish controversies as much as of now, but it was a trend that continued, camouflaged within the shells of magic realism. 


Let’s start with the old wives’ tales that often became a part of the folklores of the rural Bengal; from intelligent, fortune-telling talking birds (Byangoma & Byangomi) to the Pokkhiraaj (flying horses; the Indian versions of Pegasus) and Jiyon-kathi Moron-kathi (small sticks that could make a person dead or alive as per the will), it becomes evident that what science achieved today was fancied long back – for we can easily substitute the aforementioned as the precursors of super computers, jetcycles and instances of suspended animated conditions that we refer today as cryogenics. But it’s banned to be surprised, dear reader; more are to come. But before that, we need to clear the confusion regarding the 1880s. 


Hemlal Dutta’s Rohoshyo (mystery) was what we are talking about. Published in two installments in the early 1880s in a graphical periodical named Bigyan Darpan, it was a story that revolved around Nagendra (the central character). A visit to a friend’s house made him confront a series of automated equipments and exalted technology. Accounts of automatic doorbells, burglar alarms and laundries came up as some of the innovations that were wondered at as the rapid automation yet to adorn the human life. The next leap was towards genetics, zoology and chemistry and it were the credits of Sukumar Ray that showed up through his literary works; Tnyash Goru and Heshoram Hnushiar-er Diary clearly portrays a vision as well as the author’s intrepid humorous nature, an attribute of every experimental modernist writer that he inherited from his father Upendrakishore RayChowdhury, the one who narrated the idea of teleportation and immobilizing sound frequencies through his immortal work Goopi Gaain Bagha Baain. 


For Bengali translation by native translator contact 

The modern era has witnessed the trend set roots firmly within the fertile soils of Bengali openmindedness that was developing at quite a rapid pace; Satyajit Ray, Shirshendu Mukhopaddhyay, Premendra Mitra, Adrish Bardhan and a few more invaded the scene with an intensity that made the Bengali readers over-zealous on the subject. Professor Shonku, Ghona-da and Professor Nut-Boltu-Chokro are as much a household name as Gora and Ranjan and Shirshendu, though encapsulated mostly in the realms of magic-realism, gave the Bengali population a couple of gems like Patalghar and Manoj-der odbhut bari that narrated tales of space science, alien life and genetics. But definitely overwhelming is      

the picturization of the short story Bonkubabu’r Bondhu by Spielberg (in the form of The Alien and later, E.T.), the original writer being our own Satyajit Ray.


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