Stunned publishers fear the worst
Publishers waited with baited breath ever since they heard that Humayun Ahmed, the man credited with single-handedly reviving the flagging publishing industry in Bangladesh, had cancer.
They hoped for good news from New York where the writer was undergoing treatment. Instead, it was their worst fears that unfolded.
Farid Ahmed, the owner of Shomoy Publications which published most of Humayun's books in the 90s, said, "The whole country was waiting for the news of his recovery. But he did not return. We had no idea this could happen."
"The closer a writer could reach the hearts of his readers, his death would strike readers more. Publishers fight alongside the writers to reach the readers. At the same time, they are readers themselves. So they get hurt both ways," Ahmed said.
Publisher of Mawla Brothers, Ahmed Mahmudul Haque told bdnews24.com . "The rise of Humayun Ahmed was one of the major incidents in Bangladesh's literary history. We never thought such a big writer would leave us so early. We were waiting for good news and got a bad one after the wait."
Haque pointed out that the writer was a patriot above everything else. "He did not write about patriotism, he wrote out of patriotism. He built his ties with the people emerging as a writer. He later started making films and tele-drama."
A K Nasir Ahmed Selim, owner of Kakoli Prokashoni which published 35 of Humayun's works, pointed out that the publishing industry developed only after independence.
"And Humayun Ahmed was one of the leaders of this development. His death is a big blow to the country's publishing industry."
Selim added, "After publishing one of Humayun's books, we could risk publishing 10 other books by other writers, banking on the profits made from his book alone since there was no assurance on the returns from the other books."
Even the publishers, who never got the scope to publish Humayun's books, were stunned by his demise.
Agami Prokashoni owner Osman Gani said Bangladeshi readers were once at the mercy of West Bengal writers like Sunil Gangapaddhay and Shirshendu Mukhapaddhay.
"Pirated copies of their books were printed here. All publication and readership revolved around them."
"But Humayun changed all that by reaching the hearts of readers through his mesmerising writing. Millions would crowd the book fairs for an autograph of his. Those who came also bought other books."
Gani was wary that the crowd-puller Humayun's death could lead to a slump in the number of visitors at the book fair.
The Ekushey Padak winner, Humayun Ahmed passed away on July 19 at a hospital in New York after a nine-month long gruelling battle against cancer. He was 64.