Noted scholar and recipient of Rabindra Puraskar Father Paul Detienne died in a Jesuit Seminary in Brussels on Monday.
He was 93 and had been suffering from cancer for some time. He was the last surviving Jesuit priest, who had come to Bengal to preach Christianity.
Over time, he fell in love with Bengali language and soon became one of Bengal’s important literary figures.
His three colleagues who became household names to Bengali readers were Father Robert Antoine, Father Pierre Fallon and Father Andre Bruylants. Father Bruylants was the Rector of St Lawrence School and St Xavier’s Collegiate School.
All four priests had studied Bengali at Visva Bharati and all of them had written books in Bengali.
Father Detienne’s Aatpoure Dinapanji, Rojnamcha and Godya Sangraha show his brilliance as a Bengali litterateur and his command over the language. He received the Rabindra Puraskar for his book Diaryr Chhenra Pata, a compilation of his column published for many years in the literary magazine Desh.
Father Detienne, along with his two fellow Jesuit father Antoine and Pierre Fallon, set up Shanti Bhavan at Prince Gulam Mohammed Shah Road in south Kolkata.
The Bhavan was established as a forum to discuss philosophy, literature and drama.
His colleague Father Antoine was a professor of comparative literature at Jadavpur University.
Father Antoine was also the first Jesuit priest to obtain Master’s Degree in Sanskrit from Calcutta University.
Father Detienne compiled a monumental volume on the contribution of William Carey and the Serampore Mission Press in spreading the Bengali language.
Father Detienne will be remembered for his simplicity and erudition. Ordinary people referred to him as ‘Father Babu’, ‘Father Dada’ or simply ‘Father’. People often saw him clad in kurta-pyjama, playing cricket with local boys.