Dhaka Lit Fest 2016 will pay a fitting tribute to the most versatile author of Bangladesh
There are some writers without whose existence the Dhaka Lit Fest (DLF) cannot actually be conceptualised. It is not so because their works were launched and talks featured in DLF many times over. It is rather so because their achievements in literature are so big that one perhaps cannot imagine any literary event of true potential without them; because their vision of literature is so rich that the DLF has drawn unrestrainedly from their works to shape its own vision that lies in embracing diversity and divergent views.
Syed Shamsul Haq was one such writer who left us forever on September 27. His body of work is so vast and powerful that most of us are touched by it in some way or other. The DLF editions of the previous years were entwined with him in more ways than one. According to the festival directors, his unstinting support for DLF provided them with a solid ground on which to stand and continue their work against the festival’s detractors. In fact, some of the most memorable panels about translation and Bangla literature saw him interact with such big names as Bengali fiction writer Hasan Azizul Haque and Welsh poet and playwright Gillian Clarke. It was also as part of the festival that Syed Haq enjoyed being on stage with Vikram Seth, reciting beneath a banyan tree that graces Bangla Academy and their recitations echoed with an enthralled audience.
His body of work is so vast and powerful that most of us are touched by it in some way or other. The DLF editions of the previous years were entwined with him in more ways than one. According to the festival directors, his unstinting support for DLF provided them with a solid ground on which to stand and continue their work against the festival’s detractors.
Syed Haq was an artist in the truest sense of the word. Beyond his books, his aesthetics and mannerisms never failed to impress anyone who met him. His interest in world literature and his love for the arts was evident when he would be speaking at the festival or at a small gathering of readers and writers. Never one to boast or come across haughty, it was impossible not to feel humbled by the sheer reach of his erudition. He always enjoyed exchanging ideas with writers at the festival, and he would stress to the directors the need for taking Bangla literature to the rest of the world. His vision was farsighted and clear: he could see the role the festival, because of its international stature, could play in creating that platform for Bangla, and he was delighted with the first concrete step – the introduction of Library of Bangladesh series, which saw two of his novellas translated into English and launched at DLF last year.
We are really happy to learn that this year’s DLF will give a fitting tribute to him and his work through discussions and staging one of his novellas, Neel Dongshon, which is one of the modern classics of Bangladeshi literature. The short novel was published in the early 1980s but it remains extremely relevant to our times: The struggle of the word against brute forces is still, unfortunately, ongoing.
Syed Shamsul Haq has left us for another world, but fortunately for us, not only we have his books, we have an international literary festival in his beloved city, and we look forward to celebrating him and his works.