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Debabrata Rej, was born in the district of Burdwan, West Bengal, India 1 November 1917, as a son of a postmaster. Since his childhood he showed exceptional talent in literary writing and thirst for acquiring knowledge from various fields of science and arts. From his early schoolyears he was awarded scholarships as well as Gold Medal from Calcutta University in 1937. His interest in Sanskrit and Bengali literature and philosophy during the adolescence and early youth, especially in Kalidash and Vaisnab Padabali later expanded to encompass classical literature and philosophy of the West. He mastered several European languages on his own including German, French and several Slavic languages while Russian became his main language of interest. His works at Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), in Russian brought him to Moscow for a period in the 1960´s.

From his young days, he started writing literary pieces in Bengali, English and German and later translated works of Goethe and Nietzsche from German and novels of Dostoevsky from Russian. His talent in Bengali language flourished especially in his writings of short stories, novels and dramas. He won an award in an international youth competition in writing poems in German in which Pablo Neruda was a member of the jury.

Debabrata Rej received great appreciation of the intellectuals and the people who sought newer directions in literature. During his period of serving in different districts of West Bengal as an administrative officer he caught attention of Professor Prasanta Mahalanabis, the founder of ISI. He joined ISI in the team working with the Indian Planning Commission. Later a department of linguistics was established, which he led. Besides linguistic theories and early experiments about computer based translation, he translated advanced books on mathematics and statistics from original Russian.

His zeal for knowledge besides science, mathematics and language included also Jungian psychology and existential philosophies like Nietzsche, Heidegger and Sartre. Since coming to Calcutta he pursued an uncompromising life of an author of experimental writings - particularly avant-garde theatres.

Many of these avant-garde pieces were performed in the yearly cultural festival at the ISI.  Rupa and Co. published a few of his original Bengali novels and translation of Aldous Huxley (from English), Dostoevsky and Nobikov (from Russian) during 1960s.

By this time Bengali literature was being politicized, which left little room for the type of literature, which went beyond social-political reality of life and broke the boundaries of cultural constraints. During this period, he wrote advanced essays in Bengali about depth psychology, mythology, literature and culture. His essays also included analysis of works of Dante, Goethe, Nietzsche and Rabindranath Tagore. He was deeply respected for his great knowledge. His essays were regularly published by the literary magazines catering to the serious intellectual readers.

He sought new dimensions outside what Bengal had produced so far, and was ahead in pursuing writing which was neither confined in depicting the social malaise, nor propagated communist ideology, or influenced by traditional culture of Bengal (or India).

In the later years of his life he took to writing in English with a hope to be able to reach the readers in the West and other parts of the world who might appreciate his aspirations as an author.

It began with a novel “Time in Ashes” which was also later translated to Norwegian and published in Norway in 1973. He was enamored of James Joyce and writings based on stream of consciousness. It gave birth to literary pieces several hundred pages long without any punctuation. Instead of the social reality his writings became an integral part of the psychological reality of the deeper realm of the mind of the universal man.

In later part of his life he felt deeply depressed about the intellectual and literary environment in Calcutta. During this period, he travelled to Europe including England, Norway, Switzerland and France. A few years before his death in 1986 he started composing long poems of several hundred pages. A few of these unpublished manuscripts were kept in the library of the Swedish Academy by a renowned member at that time of the Nobel Committee, Arthur Lundqvist.  He found his writing deeply touching, though, he meant, it could be difficult for most readers to access such work.

The long poems are “Composition in Words”, “Poem in Search of Itself”, “Sobbing at Midnight”, “What Is It Kandinsky?”, “Monologue on Evanescence” and “Anankee”. These poems are journeys in the deeper realms of mind where words are free in the wings of visions. This freedom crosses the boundaries of so-called reality and hovers as a surreal realm from “glass beads to galaxies”. In these poems one encounters the vast intellectual and emotional world of a human being, who sought to free the creative literature from the bondage of language.

Debabrata Rej was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1983. However, he continued writing until his death in October 1986. He called his last long poem “Anankee” (the bodiless).

He had received tremendous support from his wife Aruna Rej (maiden name Chaudhuri) who came from an upper-class family of Calcutta closely related to what is known as Itachuna Rajbari in Hooghly District these days. They had eight children and in his last years Debabrata Rej also cared warmly for his grandchildren.

In 2010 Anjali Publisher, Kolkata published two books containing collections of his essays on literature and culture. In 2016 the University Press Limited, Dhaka published Goethe`s Faust in Bengali which Debabrata Rej translated from the original German in 1958. Faust was launched in Kolkata in 2016, where experts of German literature participated in the discussion and praised highly of the book.

A website about his works has been made (http://Debabratarej.in) where some of the books and manuscripts in Bengali and English are available for reading and downloading. In the centenary event, which was held at Rabindranath Tagore Centre, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) on 1 November 2017, his works in Bengali and English were presented in audio-visual form. People from Nandi Ranga Theatre group and other voice artists in Bengali and English read out from his dramas, experimental novel and recited English poems on this event. The audio-visual material presented at ICCR, which will give a deeper understanding of his views and visions about creative literature for the future, can be viewed in the website http://Centenary.DebabrataRei.in


His son Dr. Anup Rej (anuprej@gmail.com) and daughter-in-law Ragne Birte Lund (former Ambassador of Norway, ragnebirtelund@gmail.com) who live in Norway, can be contacted for information about his works in English.

Information about his Bengali writings can be obtained from his sons living in Kolkata: Asim Rej (rej.asim@gmail.com) and Atish Rej (atishrej@gmail.com).

For general information Dr. Arup Rej (aruprej@gmail.com) who lives in the UK, may be contacted.