The cancellation of the Bangla Academy Ekushey Book Fair 2021 by the organising authorities has disappointed lots of people. Apart from thousands of serious book lovers and dozens of publishers, it has also dampened the spontaneous spirit of book browsers. Like with many other events around the world, it was the deadly corona pandemic, which had prompted the organisers to put the 2021 fair on hold. They feared a less-than-expected turnout of visitors at the fair. The compulsive readers, however, do not agree with this apprehension. They have firm belief that readers, and, for that matter, connoisseurs of any art medium, cannot be kept away from the yearly events for long. But the global corona pandemic situation has long been turning terrible.
The pandemic's virus has now transformed into veritable agents of sufferings and death. The state administrations in many countries have finally decided to intervene. They want that all crowded events be either postponed or cancelled. Postponement is delaying. Viewing the holding of the grand book fair in this perspective, many have suggested opening of the fair in late February. But since none can foresee the unpredictably behaving Covid-19 pandemic's shape, the possibility of a delayed start remains elusive. The Amor Ekushey Bangla Academy Book Fair is considered the largest such event in Asia. The decision on changing its day of start and schedule thus warrants a careful study of the developments in the Asia region and elsewhere.
The Book Fair has been taking place for over three decades. Beginning from a week-long book display and sale and extended to 15 days, the much-awaited book-related event finally settled for a month-long duration. The recent announcement of the coming fair's cancellation and its shift to online has disappointed as well as confused the regular fair-goers. To a lot of people, the digital arrangement of the event has yet to become clear. Yet many are willing to visit the 'month-long' fair upon learning how to use the virtual device.
The case of the Bangla Academy Book Fair is not unique. Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's most prestigious book-related event, has moved online this year. Slated for the late 2020, the fair's so-called 'special edition' had no provision for onsite exhibition. The cancellation was prompted by corona spread. Many globally important events have long been postponed in fear of human-to-human transmission of the deadly corona virus. The Tokyo Olympics was the first international event to be postponed in last March for a future date. To the great dismay of hundreds of medal-hopeful athletes, the 2020 Olympic has been shifted to 2021. These postponements have been taken quite naturally by the participants of other sports and cultural events. There is an undercurrent of anxiety and fear among the athletes. What they dread is the loss of physical fitness in the gap of a year. But since the circumstance is changing due to an inscrutable pandemic, everybody has to abide by the dictates of fate.
At this point, one would like to refer to the cancellation of three Olympic Games during the 6-year-long World War (WW)-II. Besides, many other international cultural and sport events didn't take place in the war years.
Coming to the Covid-19 fallout, the literary circles single out the pandemic's impact on the world's largest literary assemblage held every year. The Nobel Prize Committee organises the exclusive event in a grand and regal manner. The chief venue is the Stockholm Concert Hall, as well as the Oslo Concert Hall. The venues remain filled with dignitaries --- and, of course, the award winners. This year the Nobel Laureates eagerly looked forward to attending the pageant-filled but solemn ceremony. The awards are given away on 5-13 December, as part of the celebration of Nobel Week. Many important events, including the award giving, were held this year online in a truncated manner. The journey of the Nobel Prize faltered also in the past.
That time it was caused by the Nazi intervention in the Nobel Committee's activities during the WW-II. In 1939, the year of the World War's start, the Peace Prize was not awarded. To make things worse, no prizes in any category were awarded in 1940, `41 and `42 due to Nazi opposition. In the following year, all the prizes were awarded except those for literature and peace. The present wave of the corona pandemic has created a global situation which is more disruptive and panicky. Apart from the international events, lots of smaller-scale and regional, as well as national, pageants and colloquiums are still undergoing the impact of the pandemic. In this context, an annual music festival in Bangladesh or in Brazil, or a nearly month-long international cultural festival in Edinburgh, stands on the same plain.
The Edinburgh Festival in the recent times is recognised as the largest cultural festival in the world. Participated by established talents and the emerging ones from all corners of the world, it virtually turns the Scottish capital into a global cultural hub. Mainly theatre, music, opera and dance based, the cultural vaudeville has been taking place in the picturesque city since 1947 without break. Many participants have called it an unparalleled celebration of the performing arts. Others call it an annual meeting point for peoples of all nations. In reality, it is the 'single greatest celebration of arts and culture on the planet.' To the great shock of the lover of the arts, many of whom purchased tickets for the 2020 festival, the event chalked out for that year was finally cancelled. Understandably, it was the corona pandemic which prompted the organisers to take this stunning decision. But it's also true they had few options before them. It was clear that the organisers didn't want to expose the general audiences and the artistes to a dreadful virus.
The cancelled festival is set to re-emerge under a new garb in 2021. The event will be called Edinburg Festival Fringe 2021. The dates for different programmes will remain as before, from August 6 to August 30. The 2021 Oscars will, however, go on. In the changed circumstances, the telecast of the next Academy Awards, the 93rd, will be made on April 25, 2021. The original date of February 28 has been postponed by two months. Meanwhile, the 2020 Cannes Film Festival has been cancelled with the spike in the incidence of the Covid-19 pandemic in France. Everything had undergone the phase of detailed preparations to hold the world's most prestigious film festival. It was scheduled to take place from May 12 to May 23, with Spike Lee named as the president of the jury. The announcement came on April 14, 2020, that the festival could not be held in its 'original form', with presumed allusions to watching the festival movies online. Earlier, the event was deferred to June or July. But it had to be cancelled as the Grand Auditorium was converted into a shelter for the homeless.
Last September, perhaps to save the long tradition of the event, the festival committee announced that a limited outdoor festival, featuring screenings of four official selection-films, and the short film competition, would take place from October 27 to October 29. This part of one of the earliest film festivals in the A category, was essential. Many officially selected short films were scheduled to be screened free online in October. It has been learnt that the Cannes authorities are continuing talks with Spike Lee with the expectation of having him as the president of the jury in 2021.
Debacles like the one which has considerably detracted from the lustre and prestige of the Cannes Festival have been common with all such events around the world. They include segments of the Locarno and other film fests. Many small and large Indian festivals have also not been spared. As a way out, the festival committees had to turn to the online medium for screening selected number of movies. The truth is calamities like World Wars or Covid-19 pandemic disrupt every segment of human activities. Be they trade talks, mass protests or arts festivals. The only remedy lies in the preventive measures.