One particular stall at Ekushey Book Fair has been drawing crowds of book lovers. There is nothing fancy about this stall. It has newsprint books on display and is very humbly furnished. Nonetheless, it attracts many people of different ages.
It appears the appeal of newsprint paperbacks from Sheba Prokashoni remains strong. The stall at Suhrawardy Udyan had many patrons silently browsing through books of various genres such as mystery, thriller, espionage, and crime.
The Dhaka Tribune spoke with Mizanur Rahman, the father of a 12-year-old boy, at the fair.
“Addiction to reading stories started with Tin Goyenda and then Masud Rana. Nowadays, I am unable to spare time for reading but every time I come to the book fair I cannot resist sampling the books I encounter.”
Mizanur says his son prefers to watch TV and browse the internet more than reading books but his own fascination with reading stories started when he was around his son’s current age. Mizanur was considering buying his son translations of western classics to get him started.
At the stall, a group of students of Dhaka College (DC) were also found reading the back covers of the popular “Tin Goyenda” series among other books. Pantho, one of the students, said: “This is like revisiting school days. I still have a collection of this series and other classics. I used to be a big fan of “Masud Rana” series as a teen.”
Also Read- In pictures: The historic Sheba Prokashoni
Pantho reminisced about the time he and his friends raised funds to buy books so they would not have to ask for money from their parents.
Another Dhaka College student, Chhunan said: “We used to share books and set deadlines among ourselves so that everyone got a chance to read them.”
Not all had the same nostalgic view though.
Purnima, a Dhaka University student, feels her fascination with Sheba books during her childhood was a waste of time and money:
“They are all translations or copy of story plots from English literature. As I grew older, I started disliking those silly books.”
Manager of Sheba Prokashoni, Abdus Salam said they introduced 25 new books at the fair and reintroduced many of the classics. “Tin Goyenda”, “Ayon-Jimi Volume-2”, and “Ashuvo Songket” are some of the bestsellers till date.
“Masud Rana” novel “Duratma”, the horror story “Pretjagat”, and the translated copies of “One Man and a Thousand Tigers”, a book on poaching, are among the bestsellers this year.
A closer look at Sheba Prokashoni’s origins
Sheba Prokashoni was founded by Qazi Anwar Hussain in 1963. Since its founding, the publishers have offered an array of popular Bangla paperbacks at affordable prices. Its adventure “Kuasha” and spy-thriller “Masud Rana” series have been among the most popular books.
The plot of “Masud Rana” revolves around an international spy of Bangladeshi origin. The book has earned great popularity in post-war Bangladesh, at a time when cable television or video games had not yet come to the country’s shores.
The “Kishore Classic” series provided condensed translations of works from famed authors such as Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Alexandre Dumas.
The “Tin Goyenda” series, which are the stories of three teenagers’ adventures, were adapted plots from Three Investigators, Famous Five, or the Hardy Boys or similar detective books in foreign languages.
The publications’ most popular productions also included translated horror genres such as “Pishach Kahini”, the translated fiction “Sheba Romantic” novels, Western series based on stories of the Wild Wild West in the US, and “Rohossya Patrika.”