‘Little mags’ hits snag

Little magazines, popularly known as “Little Mag” corner at the Ekushey Book Fair has been dealt a devastating blow this year, despite all the fanfare and anticipation preceding it.

Little magazines published in Bangladesh have been honored with a separate corner at the Amar Ekushey Book Fair, which works as a platform to motivate publishing books under private initiatives. They remain a great opportunity for young writers to showcase their talents and reach out to more readers. And for the readers, it is always a delight to discover hitherto unknown gems in these pages.

But unfortunately only a few people were in the area, and half the space, devoid of stalls. It is but the second week, but the absence of visitors and booklovers has grown a frustration among publishers who are losing interest because readers are not buying enough to sustain them.

Over the last six years, the little mag corner has found itself being awarded more and more space at the book fair, even as interest in little magazines dwindles. In 2014, there were 45 stalls, in 2015, 60 stalls, 85 stalls in 2016, 100 in 2017, 136 stalls in 2018 and finally, 131 in 2019.

Liberal, open-minded publishers and editors are hoping to earn well even though the corner is yet to pull in expected crowds. 

Shahid Iqbal, editor of Chinnho, said: “Our publications are no less important than mainstream books because we provide young people with a platform to write. Despite the falling readership, Little Mags are moving forward on their own merit. By publishing new authors, we expose free thinkers to the world.

Md Shafiqul Islam, a sales executive of Golpo Kotha stall, said: "We are going through a slump in earnings this year."

Badol Shah Alom, editor and publisher of Khanan magazine, which costs Tk20 each, is enthusiastic. He said: "We - all the publishers and editors at the little mag corners - are practicing liberalism and progressiveness through our publications. We encourage the enthusiastic writers to write in our magazines."

Firoz Ahmed, a college teacher by profession, said that the substance the little magazine used to stand for in the 80s and the 90s during the anti-autocratic and democracy restoration movement has now almost faded.  Rahat, a frequent visitor to the Little Mag corner, said: “Most of the stalls are empty. I come with my friends every year for something new. But we cannot seem to find much, because there don’t seem to be any new publications.”

The ‘little magazine’ movement that had slowly taken off in the 1960s saw its golden days in the 1980s. Most of the renowned writers of the country made their entry into the literary arena through little magazines as it was considered the life-force of new thinking, new creation as they were free from commercial influence.

In Bangladesh, the little magazine movement saw its beginning in the 60s through publication of various little magazines including Sad Generation (1963), Swakshar (1963), Kanthaswar (1965), Chhotagalpa (1966) and Sampratik (1964). They played a crucial role in the struggle for freedom.