• Thursday, Feb 27, 2020
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Is our literature enriching the psyche?

  • Published at 11:00 pm February 12th, 2020
Amar Ekushey Book fair boi mela february books stall reading
Photo: MEHEDI HASAN

There appears to be a significant disconnect between writer and reader

The Amar Ekushey Book Fair has to go down as the country’s biggest literary celebration bringing together publishers, writers, and a host of readers. Apart from the business it generates, the side events are as much an attraction as anything else. 

Writers and publishers make full use of social media in promoting books, but where they all -- including the media -- fail is in providing snap synopses of the books to provide meaningful information for the reader. 

The fair is expansively spread on the Bangla Academy premises and Suhrawardy Uddyan and the increasing number of stalls offer more choices on one hand and a certain confusion on the other.

In terms of volume, the fair meets expectations. 

It’s a different matter when it comes to quality. Not enough work is being done in translation, especially of the classics that the young generation seeks.

The quality of poetry by new writers is also short of expectations. So much so, that a publisher commented last year that it’s almost as if without social conflict of sorts, good poetry can’t be written. 

This comes out as odd given the sterling work of the Romantics, metaphysical, and the satires that have satiated the mind through the ages. Instead, the publisher pointed to the strife of the 90s as being good source of poetry. 

Perhaps the more stringent rules on what can or cannot be written these days is a deterrent.

In both prose and poetry there appears to be a significant disconnect between writer and reader. There are plenty of new writers entering the fray, but where publishers are falling short is providing promotional platform, barring the now lonely writer sitting at stalls almost pleading with potential buyers to browse through their books. 

The media reports on a daily basis, but few delve deep enough into the publications to provide informed choices. Fewer seminars and discussions than desirable are held to talk of books and contents. 

True, there will be publicity, but what better than to hear a debate on a really good book. As it stands, the best we get is how many new books have been introduced and inane comments from potential buyers.

A publisher has gone as far as to describe the plight of writers desperately seeking the browser’s eye or scouring the horizons for the media in the hope of an interview. In a world of communication, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the scenario also includes a situation where the bulk of the books have to be self-financed by the writer. 

That is a telling sign that the publisher’s confidence in the book in question isn’t sky-high. There are quite a few platforms for discussing good books these days but not even the top sellers figure in talk shows or tea stall chats. 

The crying shortage of book reviews is another factor that doesn’t help the cause. Literature pages in print media are being squeezed and the broadcast media can’t find sponsors to host meaningful programs. 

Literature shapes direction, history provides lessons, but unless one reaches out it doesn’t work. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.