The British Council is launching a year-long celebration of Dickens in India, starting with Kolkata. This is part of a worldwide initiative by British Council to celebrate 200 years of Britain’s most popular novelist. The reason to start this in Kolkata is not only the book fair but also the fact that a literature festival – the Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM) – is making its debut in the fair this time.
The celebrations in Kolkata involve a range of literary activities, right from setting up a cozy reading room inside the fair to getting leading authors to write creative pieces on Dickens and school- and college-going youth to participate in Dickensian dialogue.
What perhaps adds a new flavour to the celebration is the fact that at least 10 renowned national and state-level authors are writing on how differently Dickens would have written, if he were writing his novels in today’s world. “With so much having changed in the world around us, it is indeed intriguing to imagine what Dickens would have done with the urban settings of his novels today. So we thought of asking our favourite authors to stretch their imaginations a little bit. Many have agreed. We cannot wait to hear what they are writing,” said Samarjit Guha, head of programmes at the British Council, East.
Among the authors who are writing their imaginative pieces on how Dickens might have recast his stories in a modern setting are Amit Chaudhuri, Anita Nair, Neel Mukherjee, Chandrahaas Chaudhury and Anjum Hasan. They are expected to send in their pieces to the British Council within a fortnight. As part of their literary pieces, they would also discuss how Dickens would have fitted into today’s literary circles.
Schoolchildren and college-goers are also being involved in the project. The British Council is running a competition where the youth, between 16 and 21 years of age, are being encouraged to rewrite a Dickensian tale or write an imaginative piece on Dickens’s visit to a contemporary Kolkata.