Bengali enjoys the reputation of a rich literary heritage, and one that was once very outward looking. All the greats of modern Bengali writing—Madhusudan Dutta to Rabindranath Tagore, modernist poets of both West and East Bengal—were avid readers of Western and Oriental literature. To celebrate that spirit of a cosmopolitan modernism is the mission of the Dhaka Lit Fest, which we do by bringing talents from home and abroad together for three scintillating days every November.
DLF began with a pilot event in 2011 under the aegis of the world famous Hay-on-Wye festival. 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.
The festival is focused primarily on literature but embraces culture and ideas more broadly with panels every year on a wide array of topics: fiction and literary non-fiction to history, politics and society; poetry and translations; science and mathematics; philosophy and religion. Over the last seven years, more than 325 participants from 47 different countries have taken part at DLF, including VS Naipaul, Adonis, Vikram Seth, Tariq Ali, William Dalrymple, Ahdaf Soueif, Vijay Seshadri, Tilda Swinton, Shashi Tharoor, Shobha De, Barkha Dutt and Mohammed Hanif. Stalwarts of Bangla literature, Syed Shamsul Huq, Hasan Azizul Huq, Selina Hossain, Debesh Roy, Nirmalendu Goon, Joy Goswami and others, have also of course graced the stage.
DLF has inspired new publications and journals, including the wonderful Library of Bangladesh which showcases the best of Bangladeshi writing in translation. DLF has also forged partnerships with iconic literary establishments, including Granta. DLF is not just about bringing the world and our audience closer, but enriching that world through fierce debates and fresh expressions.