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Bangladesh mourns death of cultural legend Humayun Ahmed

Published Jul 20, 2012 01:51pm

Humayun Ahmed won every top award for writing in Bangladesh in a career that also saw him make half a dozen hit films. – File photo
Humayun Ahmed won every top award for writing in Bangladesh in a career that also saw him make half a dozen hit films. – File photo

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s most popular fiction writer Humayun Ahmed has died in the United States after a near year-long battle against colon cancer, his family said Friday. He was 64.

Ahmed, also the country’s leading film director and TV drama-maker, “was pronounced dead by doctors at Bellevue Hospital in New York” on Thursday, his brother Ahsan Habib told AFP.

Ahmed wrote over 200 fiction and non-fiction books, almost all of them bestsellers in Bangladesh, often tackling the life struggles of the middle class in lucid and easily understandable Bangla, peppered with humour.

Many have have since been translated into English, Japanese and Russian among other foreign languages, including “Gouripur Junction”, a work of fiction centred around the small town in northern Bangaldesh where Ahmed was born.

He won every top award for writing in Bangladesh in a career that also saw him make half a dozen hit films, such as “Aguner Poroshmoni” (The Touchstone of Fire) and “Srabon Megher Din” (Monsoon Days).

Ahmed flew to the US last September after being diagnosed with cancer during a routine check-up in Singapore, and received chemotherapy at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

After surgery on June 21, doctors found an unknown virus in his body and were unable to treat him, Habib said.

President Zillur Rahman joined Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in paying tribute to Ahmed, saying his death was “an irreparable loss for Bengali literature”.

Hasina said that “Bangladesh would ever remember Humayun Ahmed for his outstanding contribution to the fields of literature, cinema and drama”.

The son of a police officer who was killed during the country’s liberation war against Pakistan in 1971, Ahmed was born in 1948 and became a chemistry professor at Dhaka University before becoming a full-time writer.

He shot to fame with his first novel “Nondito Naroke” (In Blissful Hell), published in 1972 while he studied at the university.

In a sign of his popularity, at the country’s largest annual publishing event, the Ekushey Book Fair, tens of thousands of fans would queue for hours for his autograph.

In recent years he had stopped attending to help the authorities control the crowds.