37th Kolkata Book Fair thrown open

Kolkata: With Bangladesh as the focal theme, the 37th International Kolkata Book Fair - celebrating the 19th century Bengal renaissance - was thrown open Saturday.

Eminent Bangladeshi academician Anisuzzaman inaugurated the fair, which will continue till Feb 10.

The 76-year-old professor emeritus at Dhaka University expressed concern over online reading getting popular, but said the relationship between people and books will stay for ever.

"In western countries several big book chain stores have closed down. A magazine like Newsweek stopped publishing. Even Encyclopedia Britannica has announced that it will no more come out in a book form, but only online issues will be available," said Anisuzzaman.

"Does this signal demise of books? No. For, all of us who love books firmly believe our relationship with books is integral, that we cannot live without them," he added.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee echoed Anisuzzaman`s views and said: "With the advent of TV news channels, have we stopped reading newspapers? No. Similarly no matter how much digital invasion is there, books will forever remain popular."

She exuded confidence that an event like the book fair will not only make people aware of the rich culture, history and heritage of Bangladesh and West Bengal but will also contribute in strengthening their mutual ties.

The Bangladeshi pavilion has been erected as a replica of the National Samsad Bhavan (the nation`s parliament complex) while the theme gate replicates the Curzon Hall of Dhaka University.

The last time Bangladesh was the theme country of the Kolkata Book Fair was in 1997 and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was also then in power, had inaugurated the fair.

The fair will also commemorate three leading Bengali authors - Sunil Gangopadhayay, Syed Mustafa Siraz and Humayun Ahmed who passed away recently.

Alongside a lecture, an award has been initiated in memory of Gangopadhayay - an integral part of the fair since tis inception. Gangopadhyay`s works will be discussed at length at the Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM) - a major attraction of the event from the previous edition.

The KLM will witness participation of a host of luminaries from various fields discussing varied subjects.

"The last edition of the fair witnessed a total footfall of 1.7 million in 12 days, during which books worth Rs.20 crore were sold. We hope to achieve similar figures this year as well," said Tridib Chatterjee, secretary of the organisers Publishers and Booksellers Guild.

The fair has altogether 572 stalls, of which 38 are of Bangladesh publishers.