"> Renowned author Prof Muhammad Zafar Iqbal speaks during a session called “Write a story with Muhammad Zafar Iqbal” at the Hay Festival at Bangla Academy, while Rozina Dewan, inset, performs during Kobi Lorai (battle of the poets) on the concluding day of the festival yesterday. Photo: Darshan Chakma/ Amran Hossain
Three days of escape into a world of words, languages, thoughts and imagination came to an end at the Bangla Academy yesterday, with hopes that the Hay Festival Dhaka 2013 will help the Bangla language cross boundaries.
Coming as a respite after back-to-back hartals, the festival offered the young and old an opportunity to revel in literature and arts, along with food and drink, in the company of Bangladeshi and foreign writers, artistes, scholars and philosophers.
Soraya Auer, a regular visitor to the festival, felt that this year's arrangements were better. "There are more sessions and speakers, and varied topics in multiple languages," she told The Daily Star.
Adiba Tasneem, a master's student of English literature at Jahangirnagar University, came to Hay for the first time with two of her friends. "The lectures and speeches are very useful. We get to know something different from that in our textbooks," she said.
Yesterday's first session, “Debutantes: Your First Novel”, for instance, offered suggestions about how new writers should get their first novels published and how much they should be involved in the marketing of their books.
For book lovers, yesterday's book launches included Rahnuma Ahmed's “Tortured Truths” by Drik Publications, Syed Waliullah's English book “The Ugly Asian” by Bangla Academy, literature journal “Six Seasons Review” and Ronnie Ahmmed's book by Mermaid Art Foundation.
Prof Niaz Zaman of Dhaka University, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the arrangements at the launch of famous Bengali writer Syed Waliullah's book.
She observed that little efforts had been made in promoting the session and the book.
The rest of the sessions on the Bangla Academy premises were engaging, with recitation of poems not only in English and mainstream Bangla but also in other languages and Bangla dialects.
Noted Bangladeshi writer Muhammed Zafar Iqbal ruled the Imagination Tent, which was part of the children's programme for the day, talking about how to write a story. Children and young adults joined the session spontaneously, spinning stories with the writer orally.
The audience was equally engrossed by Indian essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra's analysis of the rising powers of Asia -- India and China -- on the main stage with Bangladeshi poet Ahsan Akbar.
In another afternoon session on the main stage, authors Fakrul Alam, Niaz Zaman, Arunava Sinha and Ahmede Hussein discussed the limitations of translating from Bangla into English.
Shahid Alam and Firoz Mahmud analysed the new and old Bangla folklores and talked about the theoretical aspects of this literary genre in a session chaired by noted folklorist and Bangla Academy Director General Prof Shamsuzzaman Khan.
The last session of the festival, held in the evening, was dedicated to Kazi Nazrul Islam and Rabindranath Tagore, whose works cropped up every now and then in almost all literary discussions.
Earlier on Friday, the festival had lured the weekend crowds who relished political discussions by British-Pakistani writer, journalist and filmmaker Tariq Ali in the morning and Egyptian activist Ahdaf Soueif in the afternoon.
Tariq took the audience to a global ride discussing the politics of South America, Asia, Europe and the US. Ahdaf gave a presentation on the evolving political situation in Egypt, which seemed uncomfortably similar to that of the present-day Bangladesh.
Two eminent Bengali writers, Syed Shamsul Haq and Hasan Azizul Huq, talked about the loneliness of an author as well as his or her hopes and frustrations in a witty and active conversation on the main stage on Friday.
Sharbari Ahmed and Farah Ghuznavi's discussion on their short story anthologies, “The Oceans of Mrs Nagai” and “Fragments of Riversong” published by Daily Star Books, was delightful.
Friday's attractions included a performance titled “From Finite to Infinite” by Lubna Marium's Shadhona dance group presenting the journey of one thousand years of mystical thought in the deltaic region of Bengal.
The Daily Star's Hay Festival had started on Thursday with spiritual songs and ended yesterday evening with Lalon songs.
More than 75 sessions were conducted in the festival, where 50 foreign guests from 11 countries and about 200 Bangladeshi writers and artistes participated.
The festival, which was held for the third time in Dhaka, saw the launch of about 19 new books.