The Next Chapter

Neamat Imam unearths Bangladesh's buried trauma

Growing up in Bangladesh, Neamat Imam never heard about the devastating famine that hit the country in the 1970s. His novel, The Black Coat, tells the story of this period.
Neamat Imam's novel The Black Coat takes a darkly satirical look at the politics of 1970s Bangladesh, a time when the country was recovering from a bloody struggle for independence. (Courtesy of Neamat Imam)

Neamat Imam is a Bangladeshi author, now based in Edmonton. His first novel, The Black Coat, tells the story of a tumultuous period in the history of his homeland. In 1974, the country was hit hard by a famine and those in power failed to act. Imam says the famine is a forbidden subject in Bangladesh. Here's why he decided to write about it.

I wanted to revisit our national past through this book because when I grew up in Bangladesh, I did not hear about this famine. If you talk about this famine, you will be subjected to hardships in Bangladesh. You will be politically victimized. So nobody talks about it. I wanted to reinstate the missing history of our national life. The political situation has remained the same in Bangladesh. Many TV channels are shut down, many newspapers are shut down in the last several years, because these newspapers and TV channels are critiquing the government policies. After I wrote this book, I was told, "You should not come back to Bangladesh because you may get killed."