‘Printed books will not die’

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The book award event at Bangla Academy’s Abdul Karim Shahityabisharod auditorium on Sunday was well-organised and a programme worth attending on the cold winter’s day.

Hosting the event, Prothom Alo managing editor Sajjad Sharif announced that this year’s winners of the Prothom Alo best book award were Shahaduzzaman’s ‘Mamlar Shakkhi Moyna Pakhi’ in the creative category and Raihan Rain’s ‘Banglar Darshan: Prak-Uponibesh Porbo’ in the intellectual category.

The event began with the recitation of two poems, Tagore’s ‘Bidai’ recited by Sharmin Mustafa and Nazrul’s ‘Jodi Aar Bashi Na Baje’ recited by Tahsin Reza.

Next the award winners took to the stage along with the panel of judges comprising emeritus professor Serajul Islam Choudhury, Syed Mohammed Shahed, Bhismadeb Chowdhury and Sumon Rahman.

Speaking on the occasion, Serajul Islam Choudhury said, “There are many reasons for me to be happy and one of them is the opportunity, as judge, to read so many books. The second reason is that I am close to both of these authors.”

He went on to say that in the past technical innovations hadn’t marred literature in any way, but this had changed with the onset of mobiles and the internet. He said it wasn’t the inventions that were harmful, but the use of these inventions. Vulgar forms of entertainment were being promoted. Everything was dictated by monetary profits. Under such circumstances, it was essential to promote literature, he said.

Accepting the award, Shahaduzzaman said, “Letters have given me the chance to live many lives in one life. But I also realise that in this day of globalisation, it is very difficult and painful to touch upon lives. This history and politics of our country are constantly changing course. Added to this, global and local changes are an added pressure.”

The other winner Raihan Rain first thanked Prothom Alo, saying, “This is the second time I have been awarded. This work on the philosophy of Bengal has emerged through a lengthy process of planning. Early historians, of the West in particular, tended to overlook such philosophy which is part of the Eastern heritage. Those who write about the history of philosophy in the early 20’s implied there was no philosophy outside that of Europe. There was a marked racism and ignorance in this stance. In our own syllabuses too, European philosophy takes up more space than that of Indian philosophy. The philosophy of Bengal has also been ignored. And that is what instigated me to take up this research.”

The programme ended with a speech by Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman. He referred to the award winning author over the past 16 years and asked, “How many of these books are actually popular with the readers? This question is often raised. There have been years when the judges have struggled to find books that genuinely deserve awards. I do not know why this is so. We and the generations before and after us, love books, collect books. Just looking at books makes us happy. I know newspaper readers are decreasing. Are they reading books? We don’t know. But we know that over the past few years in Bangladesh, more books have been published and more books are being sold. Prothoma’s books are being sold in huge numbers. We firmly believe that despite the internet and digital onset, printed books will not die.”

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