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Remembering Akhteruzzaman Elias: “I would rather be guilty of what I do than what I don’t do”

Feb 15, 2013
Akhteruzzaman Elias

It took Akhtaruzzaman Elias (1943-1997), born in this month, February 12, 1943, to write only two novels and 22 short stories to be an obligatory part of the history of Bangle literature.

Elias' s insight into the subtle shades of human character, his application of physical and psychological detail, his ardent sense of wit and humor, his sardonic treatment of hypocrisy, his grave knowledge of history and politics, and aesthetic articulation of all these in his novels and short stories have earned him a classic height in Bangle literature.

Like many great literary minds of history Elias was also an avid diarist. Although irregular, his entries to diary propose us a potential opportunity to peek into the mind of person Elias beyond his literary works.

From the recently released volume of Elias’s diary by Agami Prokashoni provides us an opportunity to communicate with the person Elias and proposes his wisdom on life, death, work, and many things.

Gathered here are the most compelling and profound of Elias’s thoughts on freedom, life and death and each marked with the date of the respective diary entry.

His diary entry dated back to February 12, 1976 proposes his philosophy about life and makes us to think twice about how one should live a life and be accountable; it forces us to think about the purpose of our lives and the question of our very existence as human being.

And lo! Jesus, son of God died when he reached this age, 33 Jesus was exhausted and he did all he could do because he was on an assignment to [?] for God. He said, “O God, take me back. I did what you asked me to do, I suffered because you desired me to suffer. Now I feel spend up and so let me join you at the Olive Corner of Heaven”. God said, “You have done what I asked you to do and so I reward you. “Jesus achieved death and a place at the Olive Corner of the Heaven and so he was crucified. And lo! This caricature of an artist was born and tired and he is exhausted since his normal and so-called legitimate birth on Feb 12, 1943. The bugger is now married and a father and a writer of no fame or authority. And he is yet to start his life. How does he justify his existence? Or does he have any? [February 12, 1976]

Book Cover

Freedom has no purpose. And it is not found on this earth. All we can find here is the struggle to obtain the unattainable-that is what separates man from beasts.
[February 12, 1980]

And then on February 12, 1988 on his birth day he gave us the most poignant and insightful meditation about how one should live a life and how we should approach our work.

To know what is right, and not to do it is cowardice. - Confucius

I would rather be guilty of what I do than what I don’t. [February 12, 1988]

Book Cover: Khoyabnama

And next year he asked himself same question again, might to make sure that he was on right track.

What to do? I would rather be guilty of what I do than what I don’t do. Shouldn’t I?
[February 12, 1989]

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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at

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