Calcutta Book Fair (Kolkata Boimela) Showcases a Resurgent Bengal with JAAGO BANGLA & Works of Mamata Bandopadhyay

Books by Mamata Banerjee at the JAAGO BANGLA Stall at Kolkata Book Fair 2012
Books by Mamata Banerjee at the JAAGO BANGLA Stall at Kolkata Book Fair 2012

Kolkata, Feb 2, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) Literature governs the Bengali mind. From metaphorical allusions during courtship to seething dialectics over coffee cups, words have served as a powerful political tool in Bengal. The pens here are mightier than the swords.

The Kolkata Book Fair 2012 flagged off at the Milan Mela Prangan in Kolkata on 24th of January 2012. The fair was inaugurated by Mr. Beppe Severgnini of Italy with the guest of honor Smt. Mamata Banerjee, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of West Bengal. With a footfall of over a million bibliophiles all over the globe, the fair houses countless books of various genres from all across the world.

This year the focus of the Book Fair is on Italy, which is also the partner country in organizing the fair. The fair will promote Italian literature and produce translations of renowned Italian authors such as Dacia Maraini, Alessandro Baricco, Beppe Severgnini and Valerio Massimo Manfredi. Promoting such healthy cultural exchanges between the two nations is a welcoming initiative by the book fair organizers.

The book lovers thronging at the fair ground were delighted to witness several large stalls named after their favorite authors. Book stalls christened Charles Dickens Hall, Mark Twain Hall and Neruda Hall is reflective of the deepest affections reserved by readers for their adored authors. Another major attraction at the fair is the photo exhibition displaying rare photographs of the Inca city of Machu Picchu, as part of observing 100 years of the ancient city.

A book fair in Kolkata without a hint of a local flavor is almost incomprehensible. The Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee waved her literary wand and released three of her books at her Trinamool Congress party stall, evocatively named “Jaago Bangla”. The three books titled “Poriborton” (Change), “Kobita” (Poems) and “My unforgettable Memoirs” are being lapped up by her ardent followers and other book lovers. While “Poriborton” charts the incredible rise of the swashbuckling leader, “Kobita” is a more somber collection of words brooding about death. "The response has been overwhelming for us. We are already running out of stock", gleamed Sudhangshu Dey of Deys' Publishing.

Featuring simultaneously with the Jaipur Literary Festival 2102, the Kolkata Book Fair also had its own literati gathering within the fair’s premises. The speakers invited for the occasion included prominent names in literary and artistic fields such as Vikram Seth, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Mohammad Hanif, Sarnath Banerjee, Kunal Basu  and Chetan Bhagat to name a few. Discussing on topics ranging from the latest literary trends to other social issues, the speakers added to the fair’s buzz. Vikram Seth, in a freewheeling conversation with Ruchir Joshi spoke at length about the current trends of English writing in India whilst mentioning his upcoming sequel to his earlier book “A Suitable Boy”. Also present was his mother Leila Seth, who spoke about her curious children’s book, about the importance of assimilating the values stated in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution. Speaking about her son, she said that although she had initial difficulties in accepting that he was gay, she slowly came to terms with it. Talking of the gay child and of children in general, she emphasized the need for “extra love and affection” to save them from alienation.

The Kolkata Book Fair 2012 is scheduled to end on the 5th of February 2012 amidst increasing buzz. Whether an irony or not, the Kolkata Book Fair in keeping with its concurrency with the Jaipur Lit Fest, had its own share of literary controversies. Banished Bangla author Taslima Nasrin’s latest book titled “Nirbasan” (Exile) was prohibited from releasing after alleged threats from activists. The author vented her anger on a social networking site condemning the Government for not being stern about extremist behaviors. She also questioned the people of Kolkata, doubting if they were turning into cowards.

For a city that has learnt to evoke God with poetry and spawned revolutions with words, Kolkata will surely raise her voice every time seekers are deprived from words of truth.

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