In an impromptu talkathon organized by Star Ananda last evening and telecast in that channel, sparks flew over the righteousness of High Court’s decision to cancel this year’s Book Fair at the Park Circus Maidan.
It was amusing to see that the same court that only last week was hailed for rejecting petitions challenging the Singur car factory was now being blamed for stopping the book fair by a section of the speakers on the podium.
Heading the group was author Sunil Gangopadhyay. He let his sentiments cut loose when he said that if planned he might participate in the gherao of the High Court. This audacious statement seemed disbelieving to those assembled.
It also put in perspective his contempt at the turn of events that were expected but derisively overlooked.
Sunil Gangopadhyay rode roughshod when he said that those who opposed the book fair could not be called book lovers. In a swift swipe he sought to reduce all those whom he perceived as opponents of book fair at Park Circus to objects of ridicule.
He perhaps thought his snide remarks would lift him to a higher podium. In reality he came as small, pathetically small.
In fact, for once, from the vehemence of some writers for not agreeing to the shift of the fair from the Maidan it would seem that they might have vested interests in play. And, what would that be?
I’m not sure, but it seems that the book fair is the only lifeline where the Bengali non-text books sell well. And it is at this time that new Bengali books are launched, and the old ones re-packaged.
If that is true, then where else but at central places like Maidan will there be large enough crowd to do good business? This is important because unless they are really good, the books will not sell beyond the homely gathering of captive readers.
It feels sad, but perhaps the truth is that the high talks of book-loving and culture go only to hide a bigger truth.
Today’s Bengali books cannot stand on their own strength. They need props. New books are rarely launched in the whole year for the fear of failing. Sans marketing which almost comes on a platter during the book fair, chance is less that books will sell.
Unfortunately for the authors and publishers, the city’s yearly tryst with book-loving now faces a formidable challenge – that of concern for environment. It’s time our ‘bookish’ pride makes way for a cleaner, healthier look for the fair. The early, the better.
Articles about last year’s book fair: