12 days ago

Celebration of books and the missing link

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The book fair that began in commemoration of the language martyrs has now made its extensive foray into the Suhrawardy Udyan from the Bangla Academu premise. At a time when few nations boast their book reading habit has not diminished, this expansive commercialisation of reading contents between paper covers ---mostly paperbacks and rarely hard covers---may certainly give a false impression of people's reading habit here. This nation is certainly not among those few who have not surrendered their book reading habit to endless hobnobbing with smart gadgets.

This is anachronistic. But it was not so in the past when computer (laptop included), smartphone and tablet did not occupy so much place in life. That was the time when the nation knew how to celebrate books. The quality of printing and binding might not match those of today's books but the readers developed a genuine passion for procuring and reading the majority of works published on the occasion of the Ekushey Book Fair. Today the number of writers has ballooned mostly because printing and publication have become easier courtesy of the advanced printing technology. Authors have unsurprisingly witnessed a mushrooming growth in an age of unashamed self promotion.

Barring a handful of poets, short story writers, novelists, fiction writers and authors of serious articles, essays and autobiographies, the run of the mill bear their own printing and publication costs with the intention of making a splash in the pool of creativity. They are quite aware of their limitations but in a land where the dilettante is passed as the genuine, many feel tempted to dabble in the creative world which serves their showmanship ambition at least in the familiar circle.

Yet had this been the order of the day and such amateurs got the better of creative and committed minds, Bangla literature would be poorer indeed. Celebration of books happens only when the creative genres of literature flourish through works produced by extraordinary geniuses, which serve as the mirror of life and also challenge their readers to embark on a mental journey along with the characters, contents and the inherent theme or message. If the readers and the authors find a meeting place, the literary pursuit on the part of both becomes worth the effort and also satisfactory.

In a way, litterateurs deal with known things but provide fresh insights into those which in turn give immense pleasure or thought for food to their readers. They also deal with abstract ideas or materials giving new meaning to existing beliefs, customs and rituals. After all, creative minds are a kind of visionaries who stay way ahead of others in their capacity to have a view of the future--- even if it is unwittingly. This is a kind of mental illumination, sparkling of the mind ---a process through which a sudden flash opens up the mind's eye to perceive things beyond the boundary of what the naked eye can see. Thoughtful readers also take part in the experience as they go through such books.

This is what differentiate classics from the popular books which can be enjoyed all right but something is missing there. Now the number of book worms have dwindled precariously and there is doubt any extraordinary book will be appreciated by the generation with their range of reading limit up to the post on social sites. With time, book lovers are likely to be a rare species. But there is an overriding need for sustaining the momentum of reading habit. Even if it is popular books of romance, travel and the likes, let there be more and more promotion of those because this habit is like the flows of rivers that must not be artificially restricted at their sources.

It has been a long journey from 1952 to 2024 but sadly a few of the creative works penned by authors in the independent Bangladesh have attained the enviable quality that makes them world literature. Men like Akhteruzzaman Ilyas have transcended the barrier in the post-Liberation period. Syed Waliullah is a precursor in the in the pre-Liberation time. But unfortunately they have hardly many peers in the country's Bangla literature.

By now the country should have produced one or two international prize-winning authors. Let alone the Nobel Prize for literature, at least a Booker Prize or a Pulitzer Prize could kickstart a flood-like disposition towards reading the prize-winning book and the momentum would be overwhelmingly decisive to fan enthusiasm for and interest in literature.


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