The Dhaka Lit Fest organisers announced Wednesday the speakers for this year’s international literary festival, to take place November 19-21 at the Bangla Academy in Dhaka.
The list includes not one, but two Nobel prize laureates: VS Naipaul, the UK-based Trinidadian-born author of “A House for Mr Biswas,” and Harold Varmus, the American cancer researcher and author of “The Art and Politics of Science.”
The Dhaka Lit Fest was previously known as Hay Festival Dhaka, which was first launched four years ago. Over 250 participants from 13 different countries took part in the event last year, and it was attended by more than 20,000 visitors.
“It has been a thrilling adventure from our beginnings in 2011. We felt it was time to take the next exciting step of our journey, and brand Dhaka to the rest of the world," said Sadaf Saaz, the festival producer and one of its three directors, along with Ahsan Akbar and K Anis Ahmed. All three directors are also published authors themselves, and appreciate the value such a festival can bring.
Ahsan said: “I wish something like DLF took place during my teenage days in Dhaka! Getting to see, hear and meet some of the greatest writers and thinkers of our time, all in our hometown, and for free, is such a wonderful annual treat.”
Other notable international speakers are: Bollywood actor and activist Anupam Kher, Indian bestseller Shobhaa De, top Cuban sci-fi writer Yoss, Kenyan children's storyteller Muthoni Garland, Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, Kolkata-based author Amit Chaudhuri, poet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, and US-based Islamic scholars William Chittick and Sachiko Murata.
“It’s a dynamite lineup. Each year we have surpassed the year before in the number and calibre of speakers, and this will be no exception. This will be bigger than anything Dhaka has seen so far,” said Anis.
The writers from abroad will join the cultural luminaries of Bangladesh, including: economist Rehman Sobhan, Bangla Academy Director Shamsuzzaman Khan, and writers Kaiser Haq, Syed Manzoorul Islam, Niaz Zaman and Syed Shamsul Huq.
“For the past few decades, there has been a lot of really great writing in Bangladesh, but it has been in isolation. It has not been in conversation with the literature of the rest of the world,” said Anis. "These festivals provide a meaningful and fun platform for those engagements to begin.”
As in previous years, the festival will feature author readings and panel discussions. Most talks will be in English, although some are bilingual.
“We will have an array of wonderful sessions – from history to politics, children's sessions to science, literary fiction to discussions on every day sexism, sci-fi to philosophy, workshops to traditional oral poetry performances – with panels in English and Bangla. We will have something for everyone, said Sadaf. “It looks to be one of the most exciting programmes yet.”
To see the most recent speaker list (which will continue to be updated until the festival), visit http://dhakalitfest.com.
The Dhaka Tribune is the title sponsor for this event.
Revisit the 2014 Festival