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Walking With Writers

Sunandan Roy Chowdhury, publisher of SAMPARK, writes about friends and writers

Ho An Thai

I met the Vietnamese writer Ho An Thai in Delhi in 1994. At the time I was working with National Book Trust in Delhi. One day our then director Arvind Kumar called me to his office and introduced me to a young Vietnamese diplomat. The diplomat had put together, in English translation, a collection of short stories by Vietnamese writers. He offered the manuscript to us, Mr Kumar entrusted me the editing of the translated text and to see the book to its final publication.  Read More

Ho An Thai and I became friends; we remain friends till today. Thai, as he often refers to himself, was posted in the Vietnamese Embassy in Delhi in 1994, one of his first foreign postings. Later he served in Vietnamese missions in the USA, in Iran, in Indonesia and elsewhere. Now he is back in Hanoi and continues his career as writer. His books have been translated into English and other languages and he is one of the most popular writers in contemporary Vietnam.

When we published Legend of the Phoenix and Other Stories from Vietnam, that was one of the very first translations of foreign literature to be published by National Book Trust. Years later when I met Thai in Kolkata at the book fair, our friendship was strong as ever. His work in translation will make a valuable addition to Sampark’s World Writers series.

Fabrice Etienne

In 2010-11 we at Sampark had started our cooperation with the French translation publishing programme in India. The programme was run out of one of the offices of French Embassy in New Delhi. At the time the Bureau de livre [ Book Office] of the French Embassy was headed by Judith Oriol. Judith was dynamic, loved literature and found herself at home in India. She would often come to Kolkata and on one such trip in 2013, she handed me a French book called Fantomes a Calcutta [published by Arlea, Paris]. Read More

When I got the French book, I thought it will be good to translate and publish the book in English. I had not known the author Sebastien Ortiz till then. We met soon as he was then the Consul General of France in Kolkata. Fabrice Etienne as his real name is, writes under the nom de plume of Sebastien Ortiz. Fabrice serves as a French diplomat and yet his passion for writing is such that he has made it a second career. He takes sabbaticals from his diplomatic job and focuses on writing for long stretches.

In the months and years that he was in Kolkata our friendship deepened. For Fantomes a Calcutta, I found a wonderful English translator in Sriparna Chatterjee. She is one of the few Bengalis who have had the opportunity to study French language at the highest levels in France. Her English is impeccable as well. When Fantomes a Calcutta was translated into English by her, both Fabrice and I were greatly pleased with the English text.  

Ghosts of Calcutta was launched at the Oxford Bookstore by the filmmaker Goutam Ghose. Suvojit Bagchi wrote a raving review in The Hindu and several newspapers and media outlets praised the book. I printed a first print run of 300 copies and that was exhausted in a month. I risked my resources to print a second run of 1500 copies. Till date the book has sold nearly 4000 copies. For us it is a great success. Little did I know when Judith handed me the French book in a summer afternoon in 2013 that we will find such success with this book. 

We have subsequently published two more books of Fabrice. One is beautiful pen portraits of ordinary Burmese in Yangon. Burmese Portraits was beautifully translated by Ann Leroux.

Taliban, a novel is Fabrice’s first book, published by Gallimard way back in 2001. A short novel, Kishore Gaurav did a gorgeous English translation. The novel is a beautiful ode to love in a society torn by terrorism and war. 

In time I will return to pen more of my friendship with Fabrice.

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