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Library of Bangladesh: Taking translation to the world

  • Published at 08:21 pm November 10th, 2018
Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/ Dhaka Tribune

Poet, translator and academic Kaiser Haq termed Library of Bangladesh as one of the most productive initiatives for translators

The birth of Dhaka Translation Center which initiated The Library of Bangladesh series was long overdue. This is perhaps the first such initiative focused solely on ensuring quality English translation of Bengali literature.

Kaiser Huq, Khademul Islam and Pushpita Alam spoke to literary editor Rifat Munim about the potential of the acclaimed Library of Bangladesh series which has brought some much-needed order and cohesion that Bangla to English translation has for so long demanded. 

Poet, translator and academic Kaiser Haq termed Library of Bangladesh as one of the most productive initiatives for translators. Not only does the project ensure the quality of the translated works, it also arranges worldwide marketing of the books so that they can reach an English-speaking audience overseas. He credited K Anis Ahmed, publisher of Bengal Lights and Dhaka Tribune, as the originator of the idea. Before the inception of the project under the Dhaka Translation Center, Bengal Lights Books began its journey as a homegrown publishing house. Instead of haphazard translation efforts, the project undertook the challenge to start with twelve handpicked books, ranging from novels and poems to short story collections. 

Khademul Islam shared with the audience how chaotic the translation scene had been prior to Library of Bangladesh. Often times, there were many requests from high-profile personalities, and subsequent pressure to publish their sub-par works. This led to his realisation that the field was purely amateur, replete with missed deadlines and wrong grammar. He opined that Bangla, being an extremely dynamic language with an overwhelming absorption rate from English, is a rather challenging language to translate.  

Essentially, Library of Bangladesh is a collaborative project where many translators and authors come together to deliver quality works of translation. Speaking of the role of translators in the initiative, Pushpita Alam profusely thanked Arunava Sinha, who serves as the editorial consultant for Dhaka Translation Center, for not only being prolific, but also extremely well-connected with international publishers. By dint of his efforts, the books translated under the project have been published by Seagull Books, to be marketed in the UK and the US. 

Under this responsible translation project undertaken by Library of Bangladesh, three books have been released this year by Bengal Lights Books; they are Syed Manzoorul Islam’s novel Strange Night translated by Pushpita Alam, Shaheed Quaderi’s Selected Poems translated by Kaiser Haq, and Shaheen Akhter’s Beloved Rongomala translated by Shabnam Nadiya.

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