ANANYA S GUHA
The Odisha Arts And Literary Festival held in Bhubaneshwar from February 1 to 3, 2018 was an example of the big in the small, and how ‘small’ is beautiful. Spread over three days this festival was without the characteristic rumbustious aspect of many such festivals, with the attendant pyrotechnics. There were conversations, panel discussions, poetry readings, music etc. But the panoramic view one got was that of a world literature. Writers from Austria, Slovania, Bolivia, Holland, Israel writing in diverse languages, German, Slovanian, Dutch, Spanish, Hebrew show cased their work and took active interest in Indian writing and writers. The Hindi poet Vishnu Khare was a tour de force coming out ingenuously with his views on poetry, politics and religion. He moaned the lack of translation of Indian literature to go to a world audience.
However the unique feature of this festival was an assembly of Northeast Indian writers and musicians who brought out the striking diversity of Indian literature and culture. An Ao amalgam of traditional and modern music infused with the folk element was another unique feature. Coupled with this a Meitei drum show was indeed an exemplification of agility matched with sonorous drum beats. Although a devotional performance it had the folk elements and combined dexterously rusticity with sophistry. It was performed for two consecutive days, much to the delight of the audience.
Many cultural issues were raised during the festival. Is translation necessary? If so what are its pitfalls? How can we guarantee a pure finish in translation? Again, the impact of literature on cinema, music on literature and their ramifications on aesthetics. The world literature brought to the fore linguistic barriers as myth as these writers read their short stories in original as well. Most of them spoke fluent English but their cultural moorings of their literature were all too evident. Some Austrian poets wrote in German, one Bolivian poet wrote in Spanish, one Dutch poet was of Latin American origin. This cross cultural dimension of this meet was of universal import. In between we had Indian writers in English, Mizo, Assamese, Kokborok, Odiya and Meiteilon. What a remarkable diversity in cultural transactions. The Haiku as a distinct genre was also critically discussed. There was a discussion on the use of metaphor in daily lives, how metaphors and similes work both within and without.
On the last day Reuben Banerjee the noted journalist mourned the demise of the media, degenerating into a death trap of vicious politics and money laundering. The internationally known Jewish poet Amir Or read out in Hebrew, the sonority of his voice matching the timelessness of his language and culture.
It is this timelessness, cross cultural history, colonialism, geographical mappings with no holds barred which OALF three brought home and to the audience with pugnacity. There are worlds within worlds, in India and in the rest of the world. North East India reflected the aura of music and poetry blending perfectly with other literature of India and the world. Fiction and friction was another pointed discussion. How friction is annulled to take on reality in the most imaginative manner.
OALF three was indeed a miniature world, but it showed both the femininity and masculinity of World Literature, their changing circumstances in a technology abetted world. It was indeed a spectacular show of a multicultural ethos grounded in the cultural plinths of Bhubaneshwar fringed by the sea and the sun temple.
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