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OP-ED: The great literary despair

  • Published at 06:23 pm December 13th, 2020
Amar Ekushey Book fair boi mela february books stall reading

Does great literature inspire the lives of our people like it used to?

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Bangla Academy is planning to hold the most awaited “Ekushey Boi Mela 2021” online. This has been taken under consideration because the fair offers numerous new books and creates a month-long opportunity for publishers to accelerate their business. It also paves the way for aspiring writers to reach the reading masses. This online fair will be the first of its kind and better than not holding it at all.

But, according to many critics and conscious readers, the fair and Bangla literature as a whole are facing a problem much greater than the pandemic. One that cannot be cured by a vaccine -- the alarming scarcity of writers worthy of carrying the legacy of Bangla literature.

If we take a look at this year’s bestseller list of the fair, we see names like Arif Azad, Ayman Sadiq, Sadman Sadiq, Sakib Bin Rashid, and Salman Muqtadir. These names are forces to be reckoned with. 

But for what reasons? The answer is obvious if we take a look at the growing popularity of social-influencers, “life-hacks,” and skill development mentors in our country. They have proven themselves in the above-mentioned fields by enriching the youth of the nation with the necessary skills for building successful careers as well as contributing to the entertainment industry.

These are the values the youth sought to thrive in the globalized world. They have rightfully showcased their work through their books. One may wish to mention the gripping thrillers written by aspiring writers like Mohammad Nazim Uddin, Nabil Muhtasim, and Mashudul Haque, which have made quite an impact on young readers. But they pale in comparison to the career coaches mentioned earlier.

But please take a moment and kindly ask yourselves a few questions, dear readers. Firstly, what were the names you saw on the bestseller lists five or six years ago? Perhaps a mere three years ago? No? Then please allow me to guide you through our collective amnesia.

The bestseller list was a star-studded event in 2017-18. The likes of our beloved Humayun Ahmed, even after five years of his passing, still reigned over all of us. Others like Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, Humayun Azad, Anisul Haque, and Syed Shamsul Haque carried the torch of our literature with great responsibility. 

Even the classics from the greats of West Bengal such as Sunil Ganguly, Samaresh Majumdar, and Shirshendu Mukherjee were sold in significant numbers. Let’s keep the literary dissection of the above-mentioned and focus on the second question.

The second question can be assumed as relative and arguably depends on quite a few factors. Does great literature inspire the lives of our people like it used to? Or, perhaps, we can look for more reasons behind the masses choosing social influencers and entertainers over writers -- in a book fair.

In the search for hacks with which to thrive in the present-day world of fast movers and “viral content,” it is almost ignorant to think that someone would want to be left behind. It is how things are. 

A Shonkhoneel Karagaar or a Purbo-Poshchim hardly fit the equation. A Laal Neel Deepaboli is merely a pebble on the path towards “success,” and the memories of Nuroldeen are slowly fading away. Their places are bound to be filled with whatever time demands. 

One might ask what would happen if our literature keeps sinking into oblivion. As an answer, a quote from the Dead Poets Society:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

Concluding with the hope that, as time marches on, may our hearts be enamoured.

Rafsan Ahmed is a freelance contributor.

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