Maharashtra’s first ‘town of books’, inspired by the Welsh town Hay-on-Wye that is famous for its book stores and literary festivals, will come up by November, most likely in the coastal village of Malgund — the birthplace of Marathi poet Krishnaji Keshav Damle, popularly known as Keshavasuta.
The Maharashtra government is in talks with the Konkan Marathi Sahitya Parishad, a Ratnagiri-based literary organisation to assist it in implementing the ‘town of books’ concept in Malgund, close to the tourist destination of Ganpatipule in the Ratnagiri district.
Besides, the government is also scouting for a village that would be ideal for a second town of books close to the hill station of Mahabaleshwar.
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Culture Minister Vinod Tawde said, “We are considering two or three villages near Wai, close to Mahabaleshwar. The first such town of books should be ready for tourists by November. The Malgund project could be taken up first since we also have the support of the Konkan Marathi Sahitya Parishad there. We have deliberately looked at places close to popular tourist destinations so that the book town can be easily accessible and attract visitors.”
Located on the border between England and Wales, Hay-on-Wye, popularly known as Hay, which Tawde had visited earlier this year, is known as a paradise for book enthusiasts from all nationalities.
The tiny town has about 30 bookstores and is also home to the world’s most famous book festival. This year, stores in the town sold over 50,000 books, 17 per cent more than last year, during the festival between May 26 and June 5.
In Maharashtra’s ‘town of books’ concept, the idea is to equip the selected villages with about 2 lakh books across genres such as fiction, non-fiction, novels and so on.
The state government will choose about 40-50 houses in each village and take one room in each of these houses on rent. These rooms would then be filled with books of all types, Tawde said.
However, 80 per cent of the book collection, which the state government would partly buy and partly stock up by asking people to donate, would be in Marathi and the rest would comprise works from all other languages, he added.
To promote the town of books and eventually make it a main tourist hub by itself like Hay-on-Wye, the state government plans to organise literary events, interactions with authors and poets, and book-reading sessions in these houses.
“Every year, when educational institutions break for summer, Diwali and Christmas, the state government will host Maharashtra’s renowned authors and poets and arrange for their travel and stay there. They can interact with readers about how they came up with a particular poem, their inspiration, their interests and so on,” Tawde said, adding that the state was also planning a few incentives for schools in the state to take their students to the town of books for visits all round the year.