It was indeed a festival of books, the biggest in Dhaka, showcasing English titles. Bookworm, a bookstore which sells imported English books, put up a large stall, displaying the latest books by the 60 foreign authors who attended the Dhaka Lit Fest 2016. Naturally, it was swarming with book lovers on all three days.
The local publishers who bring out English titles, too, had their stalls, and they showcased their new and old titles. In fact, one of the most interesting segments this year was the new books, brought out by these publishers, some of them fiction, some poetry collections and some translations of Bengali literature and poetry. Bangla Academy, University Press Limited, Bengal Lights Books, Writers.ink, Ignite Publication Limited and Daily Star Books displayed their new titles.
A session on Ocean of Sorrow, an English translation of Mir Mosharraf Hossasin's Bishad Sindhu, was one of the main attractions on the first day of the festival. Bishad Sindhu is the first substantial work of fiction by a Bengali Muslim writer. The story is about the prophet's grandson Hasan and Husayn, and their deaths at the hands of enemies. Around 3.30 pm at the main stage, Fakrul Alam, translator of the book, and writer Syed Manzoorul Islam with EMK Center Director MK Aaref talked about the significance of the of the book.
The University Press Limited unveiled four of their newest titles at the festival along with some interactive sessions. The titles are Drift by Shehzar Doja, Samudragupta - The making of an emperor by Bappaditya Chakravarty, Detached Belonging by Dilruba Z Ara, and The Inheritance Powder by Hilary Standing. Drift is Shehzar Doja's debut poetry collection. Dilruba Z Ara’s Detached Belonging is a book of twelve short stories set in Bangladesh, Sweden and the Middle East. Bappaditya Chakravarty’s Samudragupta tells the story of Samudragupta, the most powerful king of the Gupta dynasty, who ushered in India's golden age, bringing peace and prosperity to a land divided by religion and small states. On the last day of DLF 2016, development specialist and author Hilary Standing discussed her book The Inheritance, which is not only a story of mass arsenic poisoning, but also of misguided endeavours and development agencies, haunted by scandals and corruptions.
Bengal Lights brought out four new books of translation. Under the Library of Bangladesh series, two translated novels: Rizia Rahman’s Rokter Akshar, and Moinul Ahsan Saber’s The Mercenary were published. A collection of poems by selected Bangladeshi poets in Khademul Islam’s translation, On My birthday and Other Poems in Translation, and The Book of Dhaka, a collection of translated short stories by selected Bangladeshi prose writers.
Dhaka Lit Fest 2016 has been a great platform to launch children’s books as well. Ignite Publication Limited (IPL), a new publishing endeavour devoted to the publication of children's books, launched two books for children: Asha and the Magic Moshari by Pushpita Alam, and Hansher Paye Ghuri by Nazia Zabeen. Alam’s book is an English book (For ages 5-7) where children will know through Asha's story that even the scariest and most unfamiliar journeys can lead to wonderful, magical adventures if you can keep an open eye. Zabeen’s book is a Bengali book where little Minu finds a way to make her wishes come true.
Another unique book was Muslin: Our Story by Saiful Islam, which was featured in a session that saw Fakrul Alam, Shahidul Alam and the writer, among others, talking about the history of Bengal's finest fabric but which, they said, was destroyed by the East India Company.