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The Fall of the Great Warrior

National Book Week should stimulate tangible benefits

BooksFRANCIS NII

KUNDIAWA - It is high time the meaningless and vain annual National Book Week was changed to make it become the vehicle for stimulating tangible benefits to writers and readers.

Every August features National Book Week. In Papua New Guinea gaudy banners of all sizes rustle in the dusty wind. Written on them is an ostensibly witty theme that nobody cares about.

Empty-minded school children in colourful uniforms fill the city arena for the annual event.

For them, it is one of those playtimes. Their predecessors have celebrated it and so will those who come after them.

Whether there is gain for them or not, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, they will go home without a locally-authored book. That they knew. They had experienced it before.

High ranking government officials and distinguished dignitaries mingle at the overly draped grand podium. It’s their day to showcase their oratory eloquence.

Pompous speeches of vanity ring out in crescendo. Blind ovation reverberates into emptiness in the scorching atmosphere.

Boy reading bookNo national author is present for the event. No locally-authored book is on exhibition. It is supposed to be a National Book Week celebration of locally-authored books, isn’t it? Who knows why? Who knows what kind of books they celebrate?

A meaningless and derisory celebration that should not be called National Book Week. A slap in the face to the multitude of national authors in this country.

No one even knows or cares to how many national authors there are in the country. Nor what kind of books they produce. Nor what their books look like. Nor how good their stories are. They don’t know and they don’t care to know the importance and value of the books that have been written.

So what is the meaning of the annual National Book Week? What is its purpose? What kind of benefits are there and for whom?

The children go home without seeing a locally-authored book. They don’t embrace a copy on their way home, let alone read one. Is it because Papua New Guineans don’t write books?

No. There are many national authors publishing all kinds of books from non-fiction to fiction, as well as collections.

There is no meaning when national authors are ignored. There is no purpose when nationally authored books are neglected and cannot be read. It is absurdly unfair when the younger generation cannot read books about their own history and culture.

Yet it is called National Book Week and is celebrated year after year with all the pompous grandeur without locally-authored books. Sad vanity, isn’t it?

Foreign books for PNG
Foreign books are assembled for distribution in PNG

It’s time to reconsider. Make the occasion more meaningful. Recognise local authors. Make available their books. Stimulate opportunities for tangible benefits everyone – authors and readers alike.

The PNG government and the National Library and Archives need to make a drastic policy shift.

Local authors and their books must be given recognition. Their books must be made available at such important occasions, including National Literacy Week, for school children and the general public to take these books home and to read them.

Revive the provincial public library network throughout the country and stock them with locally-authored books.

Make National Book Week an occasion of celebrating and promoting our own books. It should be the vehicle for nurturing readership for locally-authored books.

Comments

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Philip Kai Morre

National Book Week must promote PNG writers who should be an integral part of any celebration concerning books.

I haven't seen any books written by local authors on display. Schools are not interested in buying books but concentrate on infrastructure development and sport.

Caroline Evari

Relying heavily on the government is like waiting for snow that will never fall in PNG.

Hence, I have been visiting schools with my books and carrying out free information sessions with the public to bring awareness about writing and publishing in PNG (hope to post an article soon).

Yes, we as PNG authors want our work recognised and used at every literary related event because of the impact it will have on our readers.

I am also putting together a database of PNG authors so please email me on caroline.evari@gmail.com. Some things we have to do ourselves.

Lindsay F Bond

Is the Nation's "Repentance Day" a prelude to a like delusion? Politicians' pretence?
Francis rightly refers to dust on decorum, yet politicians press on still for prominence.

While Baka's suggestion helps the discussion, bear in mind that a library is a resource for folk both to access product (books, digital treasuries and more) and to access content (concepts, ideas and potentially enduring relevance). Can we think of content as 'ting'?

Celebration supposedly of books is bound to the product, the thing not the ting. Writers, as initiators of ting, may well deserve a week of "write right rite". This could be wider in concept than 'books' and leading on a national innovative ting.

Baka Bina

It speaks a lot about the national librarians who time and time again have their heads deep in the ground like an ostrich and not know about what is happening above ground.

These librarians have become public servants who wait and dilly dally for the the next payday. There are no new initiatives issued out from their offices.

One of the initiatives would be to get local authored books into all schools in PNG. That initiative would be too much of a labor.

The national library is staffed by workers who wear lackluster as their uniform with no thought to creating a reading society in PNG.

A classic example is the national library in Port Moresby does not open on the weekend and yet they pay for a full complement of security people manning the place 24/7.

Most of the books in the library are cordoned off so that users cannot even borrow them. There is no expo of the library during the year and then when National Book Week comes around it is all about reading foreign books.

For the record, they have not approached me about stocking my copies at the National Library apart from my copies given to them as per requirement of the law.

It begets that if writers were to write, someone has to be seen to be reading what is written which in turn gets more to be written so that more can be read.

Somewhere in there the custodian of the National Library should be the voice of the government to urge, facilitate and make it possible in whatever way for Papua New Guineans to write.

It needs a person or persons in the office of the National Librarian to think outside of the box.

I doubt if they ever do subscribe to PNG Attitude. I know they were not interested in the Crocodile Prize.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Its all been pretty low key Garry but a few of us have had advisory roles with the PNG program and several of the PNG writers we have mentored and supported through the Crocodile Prize and other initiatives have published books for the program

Caroline Evari, who is pursuing the writer's petition to James Marape is one of those writers.

Check out the Library For All website: https://libraryforall.org.au/

Garry Roche

This may be a related matter. The ABC reports about a project that aims to source and create digital books using local writers and illustrators so children can read stories about their own culture and in their own language on special apps.

The project apparently is already running in PNG. See https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-31/library-ereader-free-book-app-library-for-all-women-technology/11461026

Rebecca McDonald runs Library For All, a free library app that gives children in developing countries access to books and educational resources via their mobile phone or e-reader tablet.

Arthur Williams

Just got this email - extract only see fuller details at website....

2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize | Open for submissions 1 September – 1 November 2019
https://www.commonwealthwriters.org/cssp-2020/

Opening date 1 September 2019

Closing date Entries must be submitted via the online entry form by 1 November 2019

Entries must be 2,000 words minimum, 5,000 words maximum

The prize covers the Commonwealth regions of: 1. Africa, 2.Asia, 3.Canada and Europe, 4.Caribbean and 5.Pacific

There will be five winners, one from each region. One regional winner will be selected as the overall winner. The overall winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize will receive £5,000 and the remaining four regional winners £2,500.

If the winning short story is a translation into English, the translator will receive additional prize money.

The story should be adult fiction and must not have been written for children alone.

Philip Fitzpatrick

They could just re-name it to National Overseas Book Week or maybe National Foreign Books Week.

That would fix it.

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