The Daily Star Books panel on January 8, the fourth day of the Dhaka lit fest, sought to bring the audience to a more existential side of what the festival is about to do. Who chooses the stories that deserve to become books? Who decides whether the news of those books reaches readers? Is not it?
Moderated by DS Books Editor Sarah Anjum Bari, the panel was joined by author, editor, translator, critic and scholar Fakrul Alam. French writer, journalist and literary critic Florence Noirville. Researcher and academic Mashurah Shahid Hossain. Annette Köhn is a Berlin-based graphic designer, illustrator and publisher of young artists.
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What factors might be considered in determining the “value” of a book?
Fakrul Alam: A good review tells us that the book has captured the reader’s imagination. In Bangladesh he has two types of book reviews. One is a magic carpet that takes you to another place, and the other is when someone you know writes a book and throws it at you. You can say no to some people, but that’s what you have to do.
Annette Kane: The value of a book to me is that it must be inspiring. You can learn about some of the authors in the story. Second, it helps you learn something about the topic.
Mashura Shahid Hossein: The very nature of a book defines whether it is worth reading and reviewing. I prefer a book review that appears soon after it is published (whose main purpose is to let the reader know whether or not to read the book) and a more methodical rigor of literary criticism. I would like to make a distinction. What matters is whether the book brings to the fore something new and something relatively less explored. As Annette points out, well-presented books are also important to making them appealing to readers.
As foreign fiction editor for Le Monde, Ms. Florence seeks to bring the vast literary world to local readers. Sir Fakrul, you were also the literary editor of the Daily Star. How do you curate your content?
Florence Noirville: It has a readership, not the same readership as The Guardian or TLS. Except I don’t know exactly who they are. I make suggestions and the editor-in-chief makes the final cut. But what I’m really trying to do is be less supportive of the English-speaking world—white classic English and Americans. The point is, as you said, to bring the whole world to that page. In the long run, foreign literature is also an invaluable tool for peace. It helps you get under other people’s skin.
Fakrul Alam: For me, it also depended on the books submitted. So there were times when it was a book that I thought would be a good fit for the Daily Star’s readership. From time to time, I tried books such as poetry collections written in Bangla.
I also think that book reviews should go back to the classics and make the audience rediscover them.
Florence Noirville: I accept. If Tagore is reissued by Galimard, that’s what I want to emphasize.
I also pay attention to smaller press outlets. They are the ones who make the discoveries and take all the risks.
Media coverage isn’t the only way we learn about books. First, we study them in the classroom. How much can you innovate in your school or college syllabus to nurture your readership?
Mashura Shahid Hossein: How many of the hundreds of national and international authors are covered in our textbooks? We select a specific number of authors and consider them representative of a language or culture. The initial choice of what to read is made by the curriculum author. The question to ask here is whether these curriculum makers include literary critics. It is the critics who help develop or generate the literary and cultural traditions of a country. defined and conditioned in some way by the author and text choice.
In our recent syllabus restructuring, we have noticed some issues with authors including or excluding language, religion, or ethnicity. It gives us the idea that when certain ethnicities or religions are included in the curriculum, they do not exist. For example, how many non-Bangla writers can the concept of Bangladeshi literature accommodate?
My point is to avoid faking objectivity. If I have a stance, let me be clear that I do so so that the reader can decide how they perceive my choice.
Fakrul Alam: I have experience in selecting texts for Honors and Masters Curriculum at Universities in Bangladesh. So how did I choose? It was based in part on my reading, but also on the fact that I was able to travel abroad and obtain books that were not available here. Over the years I’ve been doing it, I think in the books of the last few decades I’ve contributed a little bit to what we keep happening. back and forth.
How much freedom do college lecturers and even students have in choosing what to read in the classroom?
Fakrul Alam: We have a top heavy system. I think the choice has become more nuanced than it used to be. We have African literature and Latin American literature, but before it was only British literature. Cultural Studies also contributes to the expansion of this syllabus.
As for students, they can only choose to read a lot or not. I just took a class for faculty at a national university, and the students complained that none of them read it. Have I asked myself if I taught them how to read? I don’t mean to blame the students.
Read more of this conversation on The Daily Star’s website and on Daily Star Books’ Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Sarah Anjum Bali Editor of Daily Star Books.contact her [email protected] @wordsinteal on Instagram and Twitter.