Internationally renowned poet, writer, intellectual, literary historian and art conscious personality Syed Ali Ahsan was born on 22 March 1922 in the village of Alokdia in Magura (present district) of Jessore district. The noble Tapas is a descendant of Hazrat Shah Ali Bogdadi. Many of Syed Ali Ahsan’s predecessors were devout and knowledgeable thinkers.
Syed Ali Ahsan’s education began at Dhamrai Primary School in Dhaka. But the actual study continues at home. He continued to take lessons in Persian, English, Bengali and Mathematics from the tutor. Syed Ali Ahsan’s university life began in 1940. In 1944, he did his M.A. in English-Language and Literature from Dhaka University. He got this degree.
He started his career as a Professor of English (1945) at Hooghly Islamia Intermediate College. Then as Program Assistant All-India Radio, Dhaka Radio (1947). In 1949, for the fame of his literary work, the authorities of Dhaka University appointed him as a professor in the Bangla Department. In 1955 he became an international p. E. N. Appointed Secretary General of Pakistan Branch. In 1970 he became the director of the Bangla Academy. In 1986, Syed Ali Ahsan joined Chittagong University as the Head Professor of Bangla.
He took part in the language movement in 1952 and Syed Ali Ahsan took active part in the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. He played a strong role as a sound soldier of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. At that time he was known by the pseudonym “Chenakantha”.
After independence, he was appointed Adviser to the President in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Religion of the Government of Bangladesh in 1977-78. In 1975, he was appointed as the Vice Chancellor of Rajshahi University. He served as an advisor to the Literary Branch of the Swedish Nobel Committee from 1986 to 1982. In 1979, he was inaugurated as the National Professor and in the same year he was appointed as the Chairman of the University Grants Commission. In his last years, he served as the Vice Chancellor of Darul Ihsan University. In July 1966, he joined Jahangirnagar University as a Professor in the Department of Bengali. In 1954, he was appointed as the Head Professor of the Department of Bangla at Karachi University. In 1989, the government of Bangladesh recognized him as a national professor.
His first English poem, “The Rose,” was first published in school magazine in 1938 while he was in the tenth grade at Armanitola School. Poet Matiul Islam translated the poem into Bengali and published it in ‘Chabuk’. While matriculating, two of his articles were published in Azad magazine. One is titled ‘Hindu-Muslim Problem’ and the other is ‘Democracy and Dictatorship.’
At this young age, he developed friendships with famous Bengali poets and writers for his literary work. Among these poets, Farrukh Ahmed, Sikandar Abu Jafar, Shawkat Osman, Begum Sufia Kamal, Humayun Kabir are notable.
While studying in the English department of Dhaka University, his fame spread throughout the university for his literary and cultural practice and for his extraordinary speaking skills. At that time he was associated with the Pragati Sahitya Sangsad and the Radical Democratic Party.
He started writing stories between 1940 and 1944. Several of his stories were published in Masik Mohammadi and Sawgat. ‘Bubble’, ‘Three of them’, ‘Rahima’, ‘Birthday’ stories are some of his. During this time he also wrote a novel called ‘This Is Normal’. But later he left the practice of storytelling and started practicing poetry.
He started his career as a critic in Sudhindranath Dutt’s ‘Parichay’ magazine after the publication of a long article titled ‘Poet Satyendranath’. The articles ‘Rohini’, ‘Content of Poetry’ and ‘First Year of Kali Kalom’ written at this time were published in three Saugat magazines.
Shahadat Hossain’s collection of poems ‘Rupchanda’ was published in 1950 under the editorship of Syed Ali Ahsan. He took part in the language movement in 1952 – at which time he edited Iqbal’s Poems. In 1953, he edited a collection of short stories called ‘Galpasanchayan’ with the help of Dr. Muhammad Shahidul Snah. In 1954, he published a critical book called ‘Nazrul Islam’. In 1956, he wrote the book ‘History of Bengali Literature’ in collaboration with Muhammad Abdul Hai. While in Karachi, he wrote a book called ‘Poet Madhusudan’.
Syed Ali Ahsan’s talent is diverse. His achievements in essay writing and criticism are incomparable. In his book ‘Poetry and Other Considerations’, he has created essays and critiques with extraordinary skill.
His books of poems ‘Many Sky’, ‘Single Evening Spring’, ‘Suddenly Shaken’ and ‘My Everyday Words’ are unique examples of traditional aesthetics and patriotism.
Syed Ali Ahsan’s interest in painting, music and other fine arts is immense. He is a devoted soul in the history of painting and in the enjoyment of painting. His success in teaching painting is especially memorable. In 1970, his book ‘Adhunik Bangla Kavita: Shabder Anusange’ was published.
In 1973, his medieval poem ‘Madhumalati’ was published. This book of poetry also has the identity of his erudition. In 1946, the book ‘Rabindranath: Introduction to Poetry Judgment’ was published. German Literature in 1986; A pattern is published.
In 1982, he edited an English bi-monthly magazine, Approach. His in 1986 A book titled ‘Modern Poetry Chaitanya and Poetry of Mohammad Maniruzzaman’ was published.
Syed Ali Ahsan passed away at his residence in Kalabagan, Dhanmondi, Dhaka on Thursday, July 25, 2002.