[Reader-list] Introducing Swapan Kumar: Crime pulp fiction of Bengal

Debkamal Ganguly deb99kamal at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 13 05:07:45 IST 2005

In all my previous postings, I taled about pieces of
memoirs or crime novels that date in the end of 19th
century or early 20th century, As my intention is not
that much to collect the comprehensive list for those
books, I feel in previous postings I could provide
some cases of literature involving crime, at the same
time those texts are sites for study of other dominant
cultural discourses regarding 'notion of history',
'idea of rationality', the use of the new form of
novel in the context of Bengal in case of crime
stories while retaining older narrative strategies. As
my main working area is juvenile crime fiction I would
provide in future postings for that genre as well. 

Right now, I would like to introduce a pulp cime
fiction writer, Swapan Kumar. It was his pseudonym.
According to the collected books possibly his first
published pocket book came out 1953, and I can recount
my juvenile period in late 70s and early 80s, till
that time he was a prolofic writer. I tried to trace
his career. First I tried to locate him. I asked to
few publishers and book sellers in famous College St.
At place people could remember him but they were
amazed to know that he can become a subject of serious
study. They were unable to give me his personal
details not even his real name. As his books are no
more available in new editions, my only luck was to
look in the heaps of old books, scattered in the
footpaths in and around College St. After repeated
effort of mine and one of my  film-institue friend
Kallol (eventually he is also fascinated by the tales
of Swapankumar) some old editions were dug out from
the heaps of those books. More over oneday in a suburb
railway station bookstall, I could find new copies of
Swapan kumar. Interestingly the size of the book is
shorter and thinner than the eralier more familiar
editions and the publication house also has been
changed. Now some of the Swapan Kumar books are
published by a house who specialise in publishing in
pocket books in subjects like commoner's witchcraft,
how to do tantric rites to keep your enemy  always
away from you or a book contained instructions how to
read a signs to know your future from the behaviour of
a visible crow (Kaakshatra). This unusual connection
of Swapan Kumar with these kind of subaltern beliefs
and rituals provided me an important cue to   make an
impression about Swapan Kumar.

While I asked about the whereabouts of Swapan Kumar, I
came across two interesting stories. According to one
story his real name was Dr. S.N.Pandey, and he started
writing these cheap crime fictions to cover his
expenses for carrying out the medical course. He also
wrote some popular books on the nature and cures of
'Gupta Jouna Rog" (secret sexual diseases) in his real
name. According to another version Swapan Kumar also
was known was Sri Vrigu, one of the most popular
Jyotishis (Palmist, future forcaster) in the suburb of
Kolkata. Advertisement of his future forecasting
clinic comes often in the personal columns of most
celebrated dailies of Bengal like Anandabazar Patrika.
In the meantime my friend Kallol unearthed the most
crucial news from an old man of publishing industry,
that Swapankumar/Sri Vrigu died six months back before
commissioning of this project. It was a real moment of
set back for me. The only option that stays with me is
to construct a Swapankumar and the associated
subculture around him, which was far away from the
'glory of Bengal enlightenment' culture.

In coming postings I would try to provide some general
characteristics of his stories, the possible cultural
reading of those texts with the seriousness of
studying  obscured cultural artefacts.
Till next posting

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Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad - 500060 India 
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