Bards and Scribes
Last week's cover story on Hay Festival Dhaka was simply a great overview of the talks held over those few days. I was fortunate enough to be one of the thousands who attended some of the Friday talks, which were a pleasure to read about again in the Star. Your team of writers captured the highlights of the discussions very well. My parents are not fit to roam the Bangla Academy grounds but they love literature in both Bangla and English and your magazine gave them a real taste of what there was to see and listen to.
While I know the Star took the effort to feature Bangla literature, I think it would have been nice to have featured more Bangladeshi writings, like in reviews or interviews. I believe the Bangladeshi audience has yet to be introduced to our talented writers writing in English, like in writers' groups such as Writers' Block and Bengal Lights. But having said that, the cover story was a charming read and Hay Festival Dhaka 2013 will be eagerly anticipated.
Photo: Amirul Rajiv
A Charming Author
Vikram Seth is possibly one of my favourite writers. I read his books for my English Literature degree five years ago and his novel A Suitable Boy has stayed with me ever since. I even passed it on to my mother who was not a strong English speaker or reader at the time, insisting she would enjoy it. Needless to say, she came to love the characters Lata, Amit and others as much as I did.
My mother is lucky enough to be in Dhaka at the moment, visiting her sisters (I couldn't get leave from work), and much to my annoyance, attended this year's Hay Festival Dhaka without me. She told me all about the Vikram Seth sessions both in and out of the auditorium. The man seems to be a charming speaker and whoever was able to get their books signed are really lucky.
I would like to thank the Star for covering the conversation Seth had with his publisher and long-time friend David Davidar. The picture of them, one tall and one short(er), (and I hear there was a joke about how one had hair and the other did not) really captures what must be a strong bond and mutual respect for one another. It was lovely to read about how Seth moved in with Davidar, only to be hated and considered a 'madman' during the process of editing the tome. Needless to say, I look forward to Vikram Seth's next book, A Suitable Girl, and won't make the same mistake of missing Hay Festival Dhaka.
Not Lost in Translation
While the event was all about engaging readers with writers and the exchanging of views, I think a very important issue was raised and I thank the Star for focussing on it: the issues of translating Bangla literature. There is a lot of brilliantly written poetry and prose in Bangla that is not read by Bangladeshis themselves. I have heard a lot of blame being placed on the generations of children that have become native English speakers before perfecting their ability to read the Bangla script. However, translating our work into English is not just for their benefit. On the contrary, it is for our benefit, as a whole and as a nation. There is something quite special about Bangla literature and while many writers rightly pointed out that it is hard to translate, it is indeed something worth sharing with the world. As your article 'Lost in Translation?' points out, the first hurdle our literature faces is language, then follows publishing and readership. I believe that there is a fear of overcoming that first hurdle and accepting that translating our literature does not reduce its quality but rather enriches its potential.
Bangla writer Selina Hossain in a session aptly explained the need to encourage and accept Bangladeshi writers writing in English as a primary medium because: “Poorly translated work in outdated English would never reach the larger audience. Only adept creative writers in English can preserve Bangla literature's flavour in translation.”
Asfaque Ali Khan
Our Eastern Allies
the Star magazine has recently featured many articles on issues affecting our allies and neighbours. Topics such as the Rohingya situation have been explored, but also issues not directly affecting us, such as Obama's re-election and last week's 'A Change of Old Guards' about China's changing political faces. This is of great important for Bangladesh's understanding and future in dealing with other political powers.
China has always been a strong leader in this part of the world and Bangladesh has often looked to the west before it has looked east. As the article mentions, the major change in leadership that took place in the Communist Party of China (CPC) was overshadowed by the presidential election taking place in the United States. This is possibly a mistake for not just us but for others in the world as the CPC boasts more than 82 million members and is the largest political organisation in the world it is of equal importance to the US's elections if not more. China's economy will surpass the euro-zone countries' by the end of this year and the US by the end of 2016. For that in alone, I would like to thank the writer for sharing his experiences of covering the important political changeover and enlightening us on what is going on east of us.
I have been reading Andrew Eagle's column for a long time and just wanted to express how much I enjoy how the writer shares his experiences, wit and opinions. He has written about aspects of Bangladesh that have slipped me by as a citizen of this country and highlighted elements of the rest of the world I will never experience firsthand. I particularly enjoyed his piece last week, titled 'Article Title [Classified]' everything in the square brackets caused a smile to stretch across my face. The writer knows how to tell a story and what I appreciate most is that he knows how to change up the way he tells it.
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