Dhaka Literary Festival (DLF or Dhaka Lit Fest), held at the historic premises of the Bangla Academy every year since 2012, marks a resurgence of Bangladeshi literary culture while vigorously engaging other cultures far beyond our own borders. DLF began its journey with a pilot event in 2011 under the aegis of the world famous Hay-on-Wye festival.
From its inception, the key organisers of the festival – Sadaf Saaz, Tahmima Anam, Ahsan Akbar and K Anis Ahmed – shared a common vision to connect Bangladeshi writing and writers to the wider world. With three rapid iterations – 2012, 2013 and 2014 – the festival established Dhaka’s place in the global literary circuit.
In 2015, the festival celebrated its fifth anniversary, and with Sadaf Saaz, Ahsan Akbar and K Anis Ahmed as directors of the festival, it assumed a new name – Dhaka Lit Fest – to mark its commitment to promoting Dhaka and Bangladeshi culture to the world. It will continue to draw upon Bengal’s rich tradition, urban and folk, from founding stalwarts like Rabindranath Tagore and Lalon Shah, to the most striking contemporary and debutant voices. It will also keep expanding its reach across disciplines and genres: fiction and literary non-fiction to history, politics and society; poetry and translations; science and mathematics; philosophy and religion.
Jatrik’s deft touch continues to make the festival appealing to an ever-widening audience, especially a youth looking for ways to realize its potential. They draw inspiration from recitations by legends of contemporary Bangla literature like Syed Shamsul Huq and Joy Goswami, and are treated to cultural expressions ranging from Pala-gaan to Bangla rap. DLF’s Cosmic Tent has inspired children with storytelling, puppet shows and science sessions.
Over 250 participants from 18 different countries took part in the event last year, and it was attended by more than 24,000 attendees. DLF alumni include VS Naipaul, Vikram Seth, Tariq Ali, Rosie Boycott, William Dalrymple, Vijay Seshadri, Ahdaf Soueif, Shashi Tharoor, Jung Chang and Pankaj Mishra. Stalwarts of Bangla literature, Hasan Azizul Huq, Selina Hossain, Debesh Roy, Nirmalendu Goon, and others, have also of course graced the stage.
The festival has inspired two literary journals in English and three new English fiction imprints from Dhaka. It is in turn supported by new entities like the Dhaka Translation Center, which launched its Library of Bangladesh series in 2015. An increasing number of our authors are getting published abroad, thanks to links made with publishers and agents at the festival. The huge success of the Wasafiri Bangladesh-issue helped forge a partnership with Granta last year, and the internationally acclaimed literary journal will be officially launched at the festival this year, as Dhaka slowly emerges as the unlikely but exciting hub for global literary conversations.
DLF is not just about bringing the world and our audience closer, but enriching that very world by acting as a crucible and a catalyst for fresh, fierce creative expression.