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Ray, Shibnarayan


Ray, Shibnarayan (1921-2008) litterateur, critic, humanist philosopher, editor, was born in Kolkata on 20 January 1921. His father Upendranath Vidyabhushan Shastri, a renowned educationist and author, came from Rayerkathi in Barisal. A brilliant student, Shibnarayan studied mainly English literature and philosophy, but had a great deal of interest in history, sociology and art as well.

Shibnarayan started his career in 1945 as a professor of English at Kolkata City College. He was the head of Indian Studies Department at Melbourne University from 1963 to 1981. Subsequently he worked as a visiting professor in many universities in America, Europe and Japan, including Oxford, Cambridge, Chicago and Stanford. He was an outstanding speaker and a great traveller.

Initially an ardent Marxist, Ray came in contact with MN Roy, who influenced him very deeply. He was particularly influenced by MN Roy's ideas of socialism what was then known as radical humanism. Shibnarayan disapproved of violent revolution for the establishment of a just society; and instead, he favoured the establishment of democratic socialism with the development of humanism as its goal.

Shibnarayan was a prolific writer and published more than fifty books on such varied subjects as literature, philosophy, history and sociology as well as several volumes of poetry. He established (1952) and edited the periodical Uttarsuri and established the Jijvasa in 1981 and edited it. He also edited Radical Humanist, established by M N Roy. He edited the four volumes study of M N Roy's Selected Works (1987-1997), which included Roy's writings in several languages, which were collected from different countries. Roy was well known for his analytical writings.

In 1971, Ray supported the War of Independence in Bangladesh and published many articles in foreign journals in support of the Bangladesh war of Independence. Himself an atheist, he was also one of the first from Hindu intellectuals who tried to understand Bengali Muslim's crisis of identity and published many an article on this theme. He died on 26 February, 2008. [Ghulam Murshid]