Friday, 27 December 2013

4Q Interview with Dilruba Z. Ara

Dilruba Z. Ara, the author of A List of Offences, was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She was eight years old when her first story was published. While attending university in Dhaka she met her future husband, a Swedish Air Force officer. She completed her studies at the university in Lund, Sweden, where she now resides. Besides writing, she paints and teaches English and Swedish. Her website is below.

4Q: Your full length literary novel, A List of Offences, has been published in Bangladesh, Spain and Greece and is available on I have had the pleasure of reading this very touching tale. What was you inspiration for the story as well as your main character Daria?

D.Z.A: Inside your society, you tend to be blind to its realties. But after I had moved to Sweden, I started to look at Bengali society with different eyes. I began to evaluate it, and also to question myself why Bengali/Indian girls allowed themselves to be blackmailed into accepting their lot. I have a friend from Bangladesh who was in love with a Hindu boy, but whose family had forced her to marry her cousin. She told me that they had married her off behind a locked door. Her cousin was then a Swedish citizen. So, he brought her here. To cut a long story short, ultimately, she stood up, divorced him, and married another man. Her parents disowned her for bringing shame on the family.

And then, when Fadime, a Muslim girl, was murdered by her family in Sweden in the name of honour, it occurred to me that the main problem is the inherited mindset of authoritarian families, which follows you wherever you go. This perverse trend is becoming a global illness. Girls are being bullied, beaten and, in the worst cases, even murdered if they try to break ingrained family patterns, no matter where they are. But it’s more severe in third world countries where the State doesn’t support your welfare ‒ your welfare depends on your family, and very often families misuse that power. I wanted to highlight, that through the story of Daria, the heroine of my book.

4Q: Your father, Shahed Ali, was also an accomplished author.  How much influence did he himself and/or his writing have on you when you decided to write stories?

D.Z.A: Well, our house was filled with books. Both my parents were always reading and writing, though during my childhood it was only my father who was acknowledged as an author (my mother gained her reputation much later). My father was also the chief editor of a monthly magazine for young people. Every month, on the magazine’s publication date, he would arrange for literary minded children to meet in the auditorium of his office. We would each go up on the dais and read our piece aloud in front of other eminent writers, who would listen to us and make us feel special. I still remember those evenings. Yes, my father influenced me just by being who he was. He never forced me to write or read, but in a subtle way he led me and my siblings toward the world of literature. I think all my siblings at one point wrote, but they never developed the passion for writing that I did.

4Q: Please share an amusing anecdote from your past or a favorite childhood memory.

D.Z.A.: There are many nice memories. Some amusing, some less so. Here is one, which I remember with fondness. There was an abandoned garage next to our home. It served various purposes, but what I remember mostly is that very often my brother and his friends played out pieces of well-known dramas there. Once in a while, they would choose a longer piece and my big brother would direct it. Later, they would play it for the neighbourhood on an open air stage. My brother was very good at reciting and imitating people, and he often used this gift to raise money to acquire props. We would walk through the neighbourhood, with my big brother at the head of the group with a loudspeaker at his mouth, imitating the voices of well-known politicians and actors asking for donations. His favourite was the voice of the Governor of East Pakistan. That voice was so familiar that people would rush out of the block of flats, only to find a group of youngsters begging for money.

4Q:  I very much enjoyed reading your short stories featured on your website as well as your novel A List of Offences. What can we expect from you in the near future? Tell us about your new novel.

D.Z.A.: I am almost ready with my second novel, which is set against the background of the liberation war of Bangladesh.
The story revolves around some individual stories against the backdrop of those troubled times. At the centre is a young woman, Laila, who has to deal with the political, cultural and emotional turmoil she is stuck in. The book was accepted by a traditional publishing house in Dhaka, but in the last minute I decided not to work with them, and now I am revising it. A third novel is also brewing.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments Dilruba. I look forward to reading more of your work. You can find additional information on this fantastic story teller at

Next week, Beans & Chops are back....with a new adventure.




1 comment:

  1. This is a very interesting interview, which will definitely lead to the reading of this short story. It is almost tantalizing. (Scary really, to think of ways that it might be a shocker, a shaker in our own traditions... which as Dilruba mentions.. are to be re-acquainted with, but with a reflective mind and heart.)


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