The 2nd Dhaka Translation Fest (DTF) 2019 was held at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka on Friday 25 October, 2019. The 2-day festival was dedicated to the upcoming birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Renowned historian, scholar, academic and the International Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister of the Government of Bangladesh, Gowher Rizvi was present at the inauguration ceremony as the chief guest while Bangladeshi writers, poets, translators and critics as in, Syed Manzoorul Islam, Fakrul Alam, Kamal Chowdhury, Gauranga Mohanta, Habibullah Sherajee, Mohammad Samad, Abdullah Al Hasan Chowdhury, Spanish poet Francisco Munoz Soler, Australian historian Andrew Eagle, Indian Sahitya Academy Awardee translators Joya Mitra, writers, academics, Nitai Saha, Debolina Banerjee and many others were present on the occasion. Bangladeshi poet in English and translator Kaiser Haq and Indian translator Shukti Roy were awarded for their outstanding contributions to translation work. It was a privilege for me to say a few words in the inaugural session as DTF adviser. I also had the chance to moderate the first panel discussion titled “Bangabandhu in Translation: Exploring the Grand Narratives of 1971.”
The fest was held a few months before the grand celebration of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as a part of the “Mujib Year” (2020) envisioned by our honorable Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. DTF remembered with profound respect the Man behind the Nation and dedicated its threshold for the celebration of the Mujib Year.
The maiden edition of Dhaka Translation Fest held last year (2018) had the motto, “Unite through Translation,” and it sought to define a new role of translation as a tool of bringing together human beings by breaking social, political, cultural and linguistic barriers. At the second festival, the Shilpakala Academy premises was buzzing with an impressive line- up of writers, poets, translators, academics, intellectuals,journalists and enthusiasts. Speakers from home and abroad expressed their opinions about the prospects and problems with translation works. On the whole, the conference gave an intriguing window into the way we can be in touch with a larger literary and cultural community with a shared future in Southeast Asia and beyond. The conference also gave the recipe for the vision of a humanitarian world to live in, which is achievable by, among other things, the unification of cultures and societies through numerous works of translation. And to this end, literatures of the world are in urgent need of robust translation. Eventually, all speakers agreed on the fact that translation can be an ideal vehicle for increasingly crossing national, cultural and linguistic boundaries that can help ease the increasing social unrest, religious intolerance, majority-minority complex and all other ills of the modern world. It was of unanimous opinion that solid efforts should be made to boost social, cultural and literary communications with people across the globe.
There is no denying the fact that language is a complex aspect of our life and so is translation. Robert Frost was scared of losing the real essence of poetry in translation while Gabriel Garcia Marquez considered the English translation of his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude better than the original. Translation is an art that has existed since ancient times. But the demands of translation today are different from what they were before.In the early days of translation, people used it mainly for academic purposes. Today, academic translation is just one aspect of translation, and translation for commercial purposes has become very important and translation industry has become a booming industry.
In the new millennium, with the advent of a new era, mankind is on the brink of a new revolution called the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). It has become very high on the global agenda and we must know what it really means and how we should respond to it individually, socially, economically, politically, nationally, regionally and globally. The first Industrial Revolution used steam, the second, electricity to mechanize production and the third used electronics and information technology to automate the manufacturing processes. Now the fourth one is emerging from the 3rd in the wake of the digital revolution over the last few decades. It could be a fusion of technologies that combines the physical, digital and biological spheres. Compared with the previous ones, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is developing in geometric progression affecting almost every aspect of human life in the society. We have reached such a crossroad that may completely change the way we live, work and connect with each other. The fastest growing connectivity with unprecedented processing power, enormous storage capacity, unlimited access to information and emerging technology breakthroughs in fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), Autonomous Vehicles, 3-D Printing, Nanotechnology, and Quantum Computing are real mind-blowing experiences. We have yet to fully understand how we will deal with such a transformation that humankind never ever experienced before. However, one thing is for sure, the response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution must be very comprehensive and we need to develop a coordinated approach to it at home and abroad. An effective translation network can play a vital role in this coordination between societies and cultures.
Dhaka Translation Fest 2019 concluded with the declaration that it (DTF) would conduct a campaign for establishing an institute called “International Publication and Translation Institute” (IPTI)with a view to adopting and pursuing a national policy on the translation and publication of our seminal literary works. DTF urges the government to take necessary measures in this regard. However, an attempt has already been made under Bangabandhu’s birth centenary celebration implementation framework with the formation of a sub-committee called “International Publication and Translation” which will get all books and speeches by Bangabandhu translated and published internationally. It is a matter of concern that nearly 1500 books have been written and published on Bangabandhu, but we have yet to get a Stanley Wolpert kind of biographer for Bangabandhu and have the biography published by any internationally reputed publisher. Through lack of proper translation and international publication, the academic study of this internationally famous statesman could not have been done as expected. There is a growing realization that world-class writing and translation on Bangabandhu in particular and the millennium-long legacy of Bengali literature and culture in general should be done and internationally published. This cultural consciousness is now at the top of the agenda in this post-colonial age and the establishment of an “International Publication and Translation Institute” may be instrumental in the realization of this consciousness, added Ahsan Iman and Bina Biswas, the festival Directors of Dhaka Translation Fest. DTF therefore, warmly declares for establishing IPTI.
Rashid Askari is a writer, columnist, fictionist, media personality and the current vice-chancellor of Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh.