Migratory writers flock to the fair

The book fair saw a bustling day yesterday, as last-minute shoppers thronged the premises on its last weekend. Photo: Prabir Das

Ekushey book fair has become a symbol of our national identity. The overwhelming presence of not just literary enthusiasts but also writers, poets and publishers at Bangla Academy and Suhrawardy Udyan speaks volumes about the love for books in our hearts.

And for that love of anything and everything Bangla, geographical boundaries seem to fade away during this month of February when expatriate writers from across the globe fly hundreds of miles to present their new offerings to readers.

"As soon as you enter the book fair premises, you feel like this is where you belong. The hassle of flying such long hours vanishes right away," said Salma Bani, an expatriate writer from Canada.

Salma is the winner of Syed Waliullah Literary Award-2018. Previously known as Bangla Academy Expatriate Writers' Award, this award is given to writers living abroad in recognition of their contribution to Bangla literature.

Salma's noted works include "Nindito Uttoron" and "Bhangari". Nindito Uttoron is about strains and thrills of immigrant life while Bhangari is on slum dwellers.

She said she visits her motherland every year and of course, her visits revolve around the book fair. "During my visit, I also try to come up with the plot for my next book," she said smilingly. "I am planning to write on Rohingya refugees this year."

Being an expat writer can be challenging too.

"Publishing a book requires a lot of attention and commitment as one needs to stay in touch with a publisher throughout the process. When you're living abroad, that process is not so smooth," she mentioned.

Besides, managing time remains an issue for expatriate writers as well, Salma said.

Publishers are also upbeat about printing books of expatriate writers. Humayun Kabir of Charulipi Prokashon, said, "We are always welcoming of writers living abroad. They usually e-mail us manuscripts, which we go through and then contact them upon need. It's time consuming but that's okay."

This correspondent also met Shahed Kayes, a poet living in South Korea since 2014. His book -- Selected Poems: Shahed Kayes -- hit the stalls at this year's fair.

He said he has edited a book on the life and works of scientist Maqsudul Alam, which is also available at the book fair.

"I look forward to attending book fair every year. There is, after all, a special bond between readers and writers. What could be the more perfect place for all of us to gather together and share our thoughts than the Amar Ekushey Granthamela?"

This correspondent asked Shahed if he had any particular plan or he was working on something new. The poet replied right away, "When you are at the book fair busy interacting with readers and making new friends, you don't need any."

"In South Korea, they arrange book fair for a couple of days and I represented Bangladesh there once. Ekushey book fair is special; it's a month-long literary affair, which cannot be compared with any other event," said Shahed.

Meanwhile, Diltaz Rahman was busy talking to readers about her new book "Jol Je Pipashar Payni Nagal" at the stall of Shaily Prokashoni in Suhrawardy Udyan.

Though the Melbourne resident moved to Australia in 2015, she has been attending the book fair every year. Diltaz has so far authored 25 books.

"Nothing beats the feeling of interacting with readers and fellow writers. Ekushey book fair seemed to get bigger and better each year," said a busy Diltaz.

"But coming here every year can be difficult for writers like us. We stay busy with family and work most of the time. Life abroad could be quite challenging. Also, it requires planning and dedication to publish a book on time and attend the fair," she said.

"Still, expatriate writers like me, we wait for the book fair throughout the year and try to make the journey home. Because, you know what… it's worth it!"

To be here to be amid readers and books, despite all the challenges, makes all the trouble so very worthwhile, said the author. "It's an equally gratifying and satisfying experience." 


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