Nabaneeta Dev Sen (Bengali: নবনীতা দেবসেন; Nôbonita Deb Sen) (born 13 January 1938), Padma Shri (2000) is an award-winning Indian poet, novelist and academic.
Nabaneeta Dev Sen was born in Kolkata, to the poet-couple Narendra Dev and Radharani Devi. In addition to Bengali and English, she reads Hindi, Oriya, Assamese, French, German, Sanskrit, and Hebrew. Graduating with a master's degree in 1958, she married Amartya Sen in the following year. In 1976 they were divorced and she went abroad for higher studies. Nabaneeta Dev Sen lives in Kolkata, in her parental house Bhalo-Basa, where she was born, now declared a Heritage Building. She has two daughters, Antara Dev Sen and Nandana Sen, with former husband economist Amartya Sen, and one adopted daughter, Srabasti Basu.
She graduated from Presidency College and received her master's degree from Jadavpur University, Calcutta; and a Masters with Distinction from Harvard University. She earned her PhD from Indiana University.
Nabaneeta Dev Sen completed her post-doctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley; and Newnham College, Cambridge University. She was also a University Grants Commission Senior Fellow at University of Delhi.
Nabaneeta Dev Sen has been a writer in residence at several international artists' colonies, including Yaddo and MacDowell Colony in the United States; Bellaggio in Italy; and the Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem. She has been a visiting professor and a visiting creative writer at several universities in the United States, including Harvard, Cornell, Rutgers, Columbia, Smith College, and Chicago. In Canada, she has been visiting professor at Toronto, York, and British Columbia. Other countries where she has participated as professor include Mexico, England, Germany, France, and Japan. Nabaneeta Dev Sen has delivered the Radhakrishnan Memorial Lecture series (1996–1997) at Oxford University on epic poetry.
She has held the Maytag Chair of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at Colorado College 1988–1989. She has represented herself and India in many international conferences, both academic and literary. These conferences have been presented at the Festival of India USA 1986; the Frankfurt Book Fair 1993; and the Munich Book Week 2002.
She has held important executive positions in International academic bodies like the International Comparative Literature Association (1973–1979), and The International Association of Semiotic and Structural Studies (1989–1994). She has been the Vice-President of Indian National Comparative Literature Association; chief editor of Bengali in the Macmillan's Modern Indian Novel Series. She has also served as Member of the Jury of important literary awards including the Jnanpith award, Saraswati Samman, Kabir Samman, and Rabindra Puraskar. Nabaneeta Dev Sen is the Vice-President of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishat. She is the founder and president of West Bengal Women Writers' Association.
In 2002, Nabaneeta Dev Sen retired as Professor of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, Calcutta. She has been working with the treatment of women in world epics and the treatment of epic poetry by rural women in India. Nabaneeta Dev Sen was nominated as the JP Naik Distinguished Fellow at the Centre of Women's Development Studies, New Delhi, 2003–2005, where she is translating Chandrabati's 16th century Bengali Ramayana text into English with a critical introduction and annotations.
Honors and awards
Nabaneeta Dev Sen has received many national and international awards and honours, including:
- Gouridevi Memorial Award
- Mahadevi Verma Award (1992)
- Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad Award
- Harmony Award
- Celli Award from Rockefeller Foundation (1993)
- Sarat Award from Bhagalpur University, Bihar (1994)
- Prasad Puraskar
- Sahitya Akademi Award (1999)
- Padma Shri (2000)
- Kamal Kumari National Award (2004)
Nabaneeta Dev Sen has published more than 80 books in Bengali: poetry, novels, short stories, plays, literary criticism, personal essays, travelogues, humour writing, translations and children’s literature. Her first collection of poems Pratham Pratyay was published in 1959.
Nabaneeta Dev Sen deals with a wide variety of social, political, psychological problems like the role of the intellectuals in the Naxalite movement, (Ami Anupam, 1976), identity crisis of the Indian writing in English (1977), that of the second generation NRIs (1985), breakdown of the joint family, life in old age homes (1988), homosexuality (1995), facing AIDS (1999, 2002), child abuse, and obsession, uprootedness, immigration and exile in her novels, often using women as her central characters.
Nabaneeta Dev Sen's short stories and travelogues are a rare combination of fine humour, deep human concern, and high intellect, which has made her a unique figure in the Bangla literary scene. Her first short story collection was Monsieur Hulor Holiday (1980). Travelogues like Karuna tomar kon path diye and Truckbaahane Myakmahane have become classics in Bengali literature. Additional notable works include Bama-bodhini; Nati Nabanita; Srestha kabita; and Sita theke suru.
She is a well-known children's author in Bengali for her fairy tales and adventure stories, with girls as protagonist. She has also written prize-winning one-act plays.