"> Braving the horrendous traffic after the 84-hour hartal, book lovers yesterday visit stalls at the Hay Festival Dhaka 2013 at Bangla Academy. Photo: Star
Hay Festival Dhaka 2013 got under way yesterday in the morning with a celebration of human sensibilities and the courage to speak out, drawing to the capital literary minds from all over the world.
At the inaugural session of the festival hosted at Bangla Academy, its director general Prof Shamsuzzaman Khan welcomed the attendees to the three-day event that took in a festive mood from early morning.
Mahfuz Anam, editor-publisher of The Daily Star, the title sponsor of the festival, recalled the language movement of Bangladesh and said that love of language means love of literature, cultural activity, spirituality and valuing creativity.
"There is no meaning to intellectual evolution if there is no intellectual interaction," he said, adding that Hay Festival provides a platform where Bangladeshis can interact with the world with self-confidence and moderate pride.
Reminiscing about his last visit to Bangladesh in 1970, British-Pakistani writer, journalist and filmmaker Tariq Ali compared the present political situation of Bangladesh with that of Pakistan. He observed that the two countries had a lot in common in terms of political assassinations, military coups and dictators.
Professor Emeritus Anisuzzaman, chairman of Bangla Academy, called on those who oppose Hay's celebrations on the academy premises to join in and meet the great minds in the field of arts and literature.
Sadaf Saaz Siddiqi, one of the producers of the festival, compered the inaugural ceremony, where Egyptian writer and activist Ahdaf Soueif, Bangladeshi litterateur Syed Manzoorul Islam, Hay Festival producer from Wales Lyndy Cooke and Country Director of British Council Bangladesh Rosemary Arnott also spoke.
Around 200 Bangladeshi writers and 50 literary personalities from 11 countries were present at the event, meshing different cultures of the world and exploring their similarities and differences.
At least 19 books have been scheduled for launch at the festival.
Veteran freedom fighter A Qayyum Khan launched his book of memoirs, "Bittersweet Victory", which offers an insider's account of the Liberation War.
"It is an attempt to analyse the war, not just glorify the heroic aspects of it," said Afsan Chowdhury, a journalist and researcher.
Catherine Masud showcased her documentary titled "Friends of '71" to portray yet another unexplored avenue of the war.
Noted writers Pankaj Mishra, Eliot Weinberger and K Anis Ahmed led a section of the guests into an engaging discussion about the global nature of literature, debating over how and when a particular literary piece transcends the local to appeal to the universal.
The panel also discussed the art of translation, answering questions about the degree of authenticity a translated piece holds.
Eminent Indian actor Rahul Bose held the audience spellbound with an energised discussion about the art of films.
At the session, The Violence Within, were launched BENGAL LIGHTS books, including translated stories of Hasan Azizul Huq, "Three Stories"; collection of poems by Kaiser Haq, "Pariah and Other Poems"; and Ahsan Akbar's "The Devil's Thumbprint".
Sadaf Saaz Siddiqi's debut poetry collection "Sari Reams", published by UPL, was launched in an afternoon session where the poet's recitation of "After Rana Plaza Fell” brought back harrowing memories of the April 24 garment factory tragedy.
The last session of the day, Small is Beautiful, saw the launch of Syed Manzoorul Islam's “The Merman's Prayer and Other Stories”, published by Daily Star Books. The discussion on the occasion, moderated by Syed Badrul Ahsan, featured Islam as well as Aamer Hussein, Farah Ghuznavi and Prajwal Parajuly.