Amar Ekushey Book Fair 2018

Published:  01:05 AM, 03 February 2018

Exploring some symbiotic relationships

Exploring some symbiotic relationships

One can see a Memorial plaque, at 12 Rue Odéon, Paris mentioning that "In July 1920, Beach met Irish writer James Joyce at a dinner party hosted by French poet André Spire. Soon after, Joyce joined Beach's lending library. Joyce had been trying, unsuccessfully, to publish his manuscript for his masterpiece, Ulysses and Beach, seeing his frustration, offered to publish it. In 1922 Sylvia Beach published James Joyce's Ulysses in this apartment." It is indeed an example of symbiotic relationship between author, publisher and bookseller.

Confucius said to his disciple Tzu Kung, "Abandon weapons first then food. But never abandon trust. People cannot get on without trust." This is very important in publishing industry. A publisher should trust his author, a newspaper editor should trust his writers, a bookshop should trust his book suppliers and publishers. So a common denominator in this game is that an author must have to be a trustworthy person.

In his "Letter on the Book Trade", Denis Diderot, French philosopher, art critic and writer, wrote, "A man recognises his genius only upon putting it to the test. The eaglet trembles like the young dove at the moment it first unfolds its wings and entrusts itself to a breath of air. When an author composes a first work, he does not know what it is worth, nor does the bookseller. If the bookseller pays us as he wishes, we in turn sell him what we are pleased to sell him. It is success that instructs the merchant and the man of letters."  This suggests an uncertainty attached to publishing a book. This is not only effect booksellers, but also effect writers as well. It also indicates a symbiotic relationship between booksellers and authors.

In this relationship readers are playing a big part. A reader when try to discover a book, he or she might think book as an object and a bookshop as an archaeological site. It is not easy to find an object of interest from an archaeological site, as one might think that a site resist revealing knowledge to an explorer. But it will at the end if a reader become patience.

Our aim to visit a bookshop is to fulfil a wish and also the acquisition of knowledge that is not to be found in the books themselves but in the people in their vicinity. Goethe on 26 September 1786 jotted down in his "Italian Journey" 'at last I have acquired the works of Palladio, not the original edition with woodcuts, but a facsimile with copperplate engravings published by Smith…' and at the end he wrote '…I had a long conversation with these friendly men and learned much about the sights of interest in the town…' These clearly indicated his aim of visiting a bookshop and his acquisition of knowledge about the town itself.

Shakespeare in "Othello" wrote, "I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brain." But stealing a book is like stealing a brain. Historically some aggressive inscription was often written inside bookshops in Paris such as-

"Steal not this book, my worthy friend,
For fear the gallows will be your end;
Up the ladder, and down the rope,
There you will hang until you choke;
Then I'll come along and say
 'Where that book you stole away?'"

Booksellers can be a protester. As an example, during the occupation of Paris in 1940s, a Nazi soldier came to the Shakespeare and company and tried to buy a copy of Finnegan's wake. Sylvia refused to serve him. The officer said he would come back with his troops and burn the whole shop. Sylvia and her friends removed all book from the shop and boarded it up.

One might think-why we need book fair?  Well, book fairs give people and definitely children a motivation to read by offering them a wide selection of books. In a fair one can get a wider selection of books from different publishers. Parents and kids get an opportunity to shop around and read books together. A book fair leaves a lasting impression on children's mind and they want to continue reading books. Book fair needs to be filled with books. It should not be a space for toys, or junk. One may offer book fairs in different ways, such as tabletop, a self-contained trailer or rolling carts.

Think about Charles Dickens books such as "The Cricket on the Hearth", "The Battle of Life", "The Chimes or The Haunted Man". These books failed to ignite the public imagination in the same way Dickens other books. Does this mean that they were not as good? Or these have not been tested in time.

A book fair can play its part to bring those books alive and engage them with readers for interaction at different space and time.  A book fair can connect authors, publishers and booksellers. It can act as a platform for developing and enhancing symbiotic relationship between authors, publishers and booksellers. Plato wrote, "Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."  A Publisher has a very important role to play in this soul searching mission.

Booksellers need to bridge the gap between publishers and readers and book fair can be a platform which hold together all concerned. I reiterate what the prince of poets Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote about the Frankfurt Book Fair, "here is the fair, quick, unpack and decorate your stand, come, authors, all of you, and try your luck". This is also pertinent for the Amar Ekushey Book Fair.       (Concluded)

The writer is an environmental advisor, university teacher and writer based in the UK

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