US Capitol goes to Kolkata Boi Mela - Tridib Chattopadhyay talks about 2011 Calcutta Book Fair (Interview)

2011 Kolkata Book FairBy Monodeep Chattopadhyay and Arup Ratan Dasgupta

Click on PLAY to listen to Tridib Chattopadhyay via WBRi on-demand audio broadcast service

Kolkata, Jan 23, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) The 35th Kolkata International Book Fair 2011 features The United States of America as it's theme. Monodeep Chatterjee caught up with Tridib Chattopadhyay, the Secretary of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild (organizers of the Kolkata Boimela) who gave us a few minutes from these last few crazily busy days for him before the Fair launches on Jan 25, 2011 to talk about this year's highlights.

WBRi  :    Welcome to Washington Bangla Radio on Internet. Please tell us what is the importance of choosing the U.S. as the theme for the 35th International Kolkata Book Fair.

Tridib Chattopadhyay - 2011 Kolkata Book Fair (Kolkata Boimela)TC  :    The 35th International Kolkata Book Fair will be inaugurated on January 25, 2011. It will be inaugurated by the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford. The theme pavilion will be based on the Capitol, the U.S. Congress building in Washington, DC. The U.S. literature, culture, industry, history etc. will come alive through a 3-dimensional laser show each evening on the book fair ground.

Prior to us very few international book fairs have got U.S. as the theme country. When we visited this year to the Frankfurt Book Fair, the oldest and the biggest book fair in the world, the President of that book fair told us that he was jealous of us because we have got USA as our focal theme country. They have never been able to get the U.S. as their focal theme country till now.

So, the question is why did U.S. choose the International Kolkata Book Fair? The USP is people. The International Kolkata Book Fair has over time become the converging point of tens of thousands of people just like the Poush Mela, Kumbha Mela, or Kenduli Mela. They have taken interest in this venue to be able to reach out to these people, to take their art, culture, literature, history among these people. It will also open a market for the selling of U.S. literature.

WBRi  :    What other countries are participating in this book fair?

TC  :    Other than the U.S., there are about 11 countries that are taking part in this book fair. Among these there are several Latin American countries such as Peru, El Salvador, Chile that are taking part through the various Indo-Hispanic or Indo-Latin American Societies. There is Vietnam, China, Italy, Britain, Bangladesh, and Bangladesh makes a large pavilion where the publishers from Bangladesh as well as the Information, Culture, and Education ministry and their Jatiya Grantha Kendra take part.

WBRi  :    What is the Book Fair doing to project the Indian culture, especially the culture of Bengal?

TC  :    Being the 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, the main theme of the Internation Kolkata Book Fair this year is Rabindranath. Other than pavilions and gates, there will also be an exhibition of rare paintings of Rabindranath. There will be translations of his works available in various languages as well a “Gitobitaan” archive containing about 3500 Tagore songs will be launched both CD as well as internet edition. There will also be photograph exhibition and seminars regarding him where eminent persons from various walks of life will share their views.

WBRi  :    This year is also the 150th anniversary of Prafulla Chandra Roy …

TC  :    We are organizing a children’s quiz competition on him. A main hall of the fair is being named after him. Also we are organizing a seminar on his life and works.

WBRi  :    This year the entry fee to the fair has been waived off …

TC  :    In this age of computers and internet, the number of book lovers is on the wane. We try to create a movement or popularize a trend through this fair so that more and more people are attracted to books. When the book fair used to be held at the Maidan, there were more visitors. Now with the space crunch in Milan Mela and the difficulties regarding transport, people still throng the book fair, but they have to spend useless time in queues for crossing the road, buying tickets, entering the fair, etc. We have tried to reduce some of this hassle by waiving of the ticket so that people may spend more time in the stalls with the books.

WBRi  :    Are there increased number of stalls/publishers this year…

TC  :    It may be slightly less or the same as last year, around 550. Other than that there are 205 little magazines participating.

WBRi  :    Space for little magazines have been made free this year. What about encouraging children’s literature…

TC  :    There will be quiz for the children and one whole day has been kept solely for children’s literature. We are bringing about 80-90 children from Antodyay Anath Ashram from a remote village on January 30 to the fair. On that day we will distribute freely about 10,000 copies of “Prafulla Aloy” – a book consisting his writings on children. We have also waived off for the regional publishers the earlier raise on rent on superstructure with help from the government.

This year we have divided the fair into different zones – religious publications, universities and institutions, hindi and other regional publications, so that searching for and finding a particular type of stall is easy.

WBRi  :    What about felicitations and awards…

TC  :    We are giving Promising Author Award to Pracheta Gupta, Lifetime Literary Award to Nabaneeta Deb Sen, and Promising Publisher Award to Talpata.

WBRi  :    How has the change of venue from Maidan to the Milan Mela ground affected the number of visitors…

TC  :    In the last book fair at Maidan in 2006, there were 2,400,000 visitors and the last year’s book fair at Milan Mela drew 1,400,000. This year it may go up somewhat. But the difference lies in the volume of sale. In 2006, the sale was Rupees 180,000,000 for a footfall of 2,400,000 as against the sale of Rupees 130,000,000 last year for a footfall of 1,400,000. It indicates that the number of repeat visitors during the fair has decreased due to problems of the venue, but the real number of visitors has not decreased with the visitors being more focused.

WBRi  :    Thank you very much for your time and WBRi wishes the 35th International Book Fair every success.

TC  :    Thanks to WBRi too for striving to popularize the book fair among bengalis residing overseas.

For more information on the 2011 Kolkata International Book Fair, visit the official web-site.