Literary works can be a powerful medium to connect people across South Asian countries and to understand diverse cultures in the region, academics and authors said at an international conference yesterday.
In order to reach a cross-border readership, literary practice in a common language such as English and more quality translations of native literatures are necessary, they said.
They were speaking at the two-day International Literary Conference 2018 titled “South Asian Literature Now” at Abdul Karim Sahitya Bisharad auditorium of Bangla Academy in the capital.
The conference is being organised by the Bangla Academy as part of its month-long programmes during the Amar Ekushey Granthamela. It is being participated by authors, writers and academics from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Colombia.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Prof Emeritus Rafiqul Islam of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh said the geographical entity of South Asia is “multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious”.
Various parts of South Asia are still isolated and people know little about their literary works, he said. “This is very unfortunate.”
Regional organisations such as the Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) could be a platform to exchange knowledge, he also said.
Bangla Academy Director General Prof Shamsuzzaman Khan said there are many internationally acclaimed authors in South Asia, but it is apparent that the region has a scarcity of authors writing in English.
People know very little about native literatures practised in Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, or Malayalam languages. “Without knowing native literature, it is very difficult to understand the mind of the people in this area,” he said.
Prof Radha Chakravarty, a teacher of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies at Ambedkar University Delhi in India, said the role of translation to reach trans-border literature is very important while translators need to keep in mind their imaginary readers across the countries.
Keynote speaker acclaimed author Prof Fakrul Alam, pro-vice chancellor of East West University, said international events like Dhaka Literature Festival has opened the window for South Asian writers in English language to share their literary thoughts on a common platform.
“South Asian writings in English have gathered enough momentum, even in mono-lingual Bangladesh,” said Prof Fakrul, one of the editors of “The Essential Tagore”, the largest collection of Rabindranath Tagore's works available in English.
He mentioned that literary works by authors like Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Tahmima Anam and Zia Haider Rahman have enriched South Asian writings in English.
At a literary session, India's Aruna Chakrabarty, the author of “Daughters of Jorasanko”, said to be able to reach the readers, a translator has to be as creative as a writer. During today's segment, the conference will feature a session on “South Asian Poetry” in the morning. The second session on “South Asian Languages and Translation” will be held at noon.