Foreign visitors lament lack of translations at book fair
Foreigners are intrigued by Amar Ekushey Granthamela every year in February but often fail to find good translated works of Bangladeshi writers.
Expatriate development worker Danielle Naranjilla, in particular, is curious about works of popular writers whose books attract long queues at certain stalls. Unfortunately she did not find enough translated works.
Isabelle Robillard from Canada was also seen looking for English translations of fictions by Bangladeshi writers on Wednesday. "I want to read a nice novel about the Bangalee culture. I have never come across any works of Bangladeshi writers in Canada, so I wanted to buy something in the fair."
However, her friend Sazid Zaman could not find anything to suggest and all Robillard could buy was a book to help learn Bangla.
Anyaprokash which owns over 100 titles by best-selling author Humayun Ahmed, has only five translations of his writings among which "Gouripur Junction" is available in Hindi, German and Farsi.
"These books are for very selective customers," said Sanaul Kabir Chowdhury, finance manager of Anyaprokash.
"O-Level and A-level students mostly look for translations. But we mostly sell those at the Frankfurt fair," he added.
Somoy publication has two translated works of the popular author and three of his brother Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, a popular science fiction writer.
Mowla Brothers also has two translations of Humayun while his contemporary Imdadul Haq Milon's translated works can be found at Ananya.
Some of the translations were by family members and question remains about the quality.
Prof Niaz Zaman, who translated many works, mainly of female Bangladeshi writers, said, "The native language of most translators is not English so we need to edit a lot."
"Besides, when you read a translation it should not feel like a translation," she said adding that native speakers often leave out portions to which foreign readers would not be able to relate to but local translators compare the Bangla and English work and try to include everything which affects the quality of the final piece.
Zaman also said demand for translated works were also not high since Bangladeshi books were not even exported to neighbouring India.
Zaman's translations of noted writer Selina Hossain, Jharna Das Purakayastha, Papri Rahman and many others can be found at University Press Limited.
Though translation of some works of eminent writers and playwrights including Shahidullah Kaiser, Shawkat Osman, Munier Chowdhury and Anwar Pasha were once published by Bangla Academy, most are running out of prints.
Adorn publications also has six translations by Kabir Chowdhury.
Yesterday 154 books arrived and four new books were launched, including Mohammad Mamunur Rashid's poetry book "Dhir Sur Bilombito Betha".
The fair organisers announced 11:00am to 2:00pm of today and tomorrow and of February 13 and 14 as children's hour.