The Dhaka Literary Festival aims to build a bridge between native and international literary figures, speakers said at a press conference on Sunday.
Over 200 writers, poets, performers and thinkers representing 24 countries will take part in different panels this year and they will exchange ideas in over 90 sessions and panels over three days, they said.
Supported by the Cultural Affairs Ministry and hosted by Bangla Academy, the country’s biggest literary festival is scheduled to kick off on Thursday.
Bangla Academy Director General Shamsuzzaman Khan, Cultural Affairs Ministry Additional Secretary Md Mashiur Rahman, and Dhaka Lit Fest Directors Ahsan Akbar and Sadaf Saaz, among others, spoke at the press briefing held at Bangla Academy.
“A few years ago, there was a gap between local and international literary circles. However, the gap has been reduced significantly over the last six years as the Dhaka Lit Fest has appeared as a promising platform,” said Sadaf Saaz.
Stressing that the festival is free for all, she said: “It has always been our main objective to uphold our literary and cultural heritage to the world. This year, too, there will be performances of Kobigaan, Manipuri dhol and a great show of lathi khela in which only women will take part.”
This year’s lineup includes Adonis, Ben Okri, Sir David Hare, Tilda Swinton, Lionel Shriver, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, William Dalrymple, Esther Freud, Syed Manzoorul Islam, Kaiser Haq, Helal Hafiz and Imdadul Haq Milon.
“All the foreign authors are very keen on visiting Bangladesh and interacting with our authors,” said Ahsan Akbar.
Referring to important political and historical issues such as the Balfour Declaration, the ongoing persecution of the Rohingyas in Myanmar, the brutal killings of Bangabandhu and his family members, he said: “Documentaries and films on important political and historical issues will be screened and several panels, too, will discuss overarching historical events so that the most authentic version of history is handed down to future generations.”
Shamsuzzaman Khan said: “Dhaka is becoming an international centre for literature and culture because of the Dhaka Lit Fest. The initiative of promoting Bengali culture in the international arena is very praiseworthy.” He added that the event “is an evidence of Bangladesh’s cultural progress along with the economic and social development.”
Congratulating the directors of the festival, Md Mashiur Rahman said: “Our object is to build a culturally oriented nation. A culturally conscious person cannot commit any criminal offence.”
Bangla Tribune Editor Zulfiqer Russell said: “We are proud of being a part of the initiative that promotes literature and that is expanding by the year.”
Brac Bank’s Head of Communications Zara Jabeen Mahbub said: “One should come to this festival as it helps one to explore one’s creative interest. Such initiatives are important for the future generations of our country.”
Dhaka Tribune’s Literary Editor Rifat Munim said: “The Dhaka Lit Fest has given Bangladeshi English writing and English translation of Bengali literature a solid boost. There was a time when translators and English fiction writers had a hard time finding a publisher for their works. Things have changed now and we owe this positive change to the DLF.”
According to the organisers, the most highlighted panels include William Dalrymple’s talk on his new book, Oscar-wnning actor Tilda Swinton’s reading from John Berger’s works, Ben Okri’s talk on his magical narrative, Helal Hafiz’s poetry and launch of an English translation of Imdadul Haq Milon’s novel.
The most highlighted events include announcement of the winner for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, the Gemcon Literary Awards, the highest monetary value literary prize in Bangladesh, and launch of Granta in Bangladesh. Granta is the most prestigious British literary journal.
Prominent Paris-based Syrian poet Adonis will open the festival and Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor will be the chief guest at the opening ceremony, the organisers said.
Dhaka Tribune and Bangla Tribune are the title sponsors and Brac Bank is the key sponsor of the event, with Energis as platinum sponsor, Meena Bazar as a gold sponsor, Indian High Commission as premier partner and the British Council as strategic sponsor. The festival is produced by Jatric Productions Ltd.