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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Rabi Thapa

By Aminah Sheikh

rabi-thapa

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

It’s tempting to blame it on inner impulses that would devour me if I didn’t, but that wouldn’t be the whole story, especially with non-fiction. Simply put, I’m better at writing than I am at most other things I’ve tried my hand at (though not necessarily better at writing than most other people), and the act gives me pleasure of a laboured kind. That’s more than what you can say for most kinds of work, and believe me, the complete act of writing – from conception to execution to almost-perfection – is work.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

Speaking Tiger has just published my second book, Thamel:Dark Star of Kathmandu, a biography of the tourist quarter that grew out of a medieval Buddhist settlement in Kathmandu. Writing about a place like Thamel is not, on the face of it, an urgently necessary task. At least not as obviously so as a book on our relationships with Nature (my next writing project). Nonetheless, I feel it’s useful to obtain an understanding of the totality of the environments we have spent significant time in – past, present and future. This is what Thamel means to achieve, as much as the book on Nature: to deepen our understanding of our built and natural environments, and thereby of ourselves, so we can reconsider and improve on our interactions with them.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

I’m no fan of bald writing that means to drive home a social message, nor lazy writing dragged along by a pacy, racy narrative. With both fiction and non-fiction, I hope to provide serious reading pleasure, without being carried away by either the message or the medium.

Who are your favorite authors?

Those I haven’t read – names I know, names I don’t know, names that haven’t seen the light of day. They represent the titillating totality of my ignorance.

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Review: The City Son by Samrat Upadhyay

Oindrila Mukherjee reviews the novel in LARB

citysonThe gifted Nepalese writer Samrat Upadhyay writes in English about ordinary, mostly middle class characters in his homeland, and their struggles against economic hardship and entrenched social customs. His latest novel,The City Son, explores dichotomies already familiar to readers of his work: he sets the city — always Kathmandu — against the village, and men against women. His female characters are, again, particularly vulnerable, as they are forced into arranged marriages and later abandoned by their husbands, who fall in love with other women. In this case, the rural, female protagonist ofThe City Son refuses to accept her fate, and fights back in a manner that challenges not only social norms, but also what we’ve come to expect in a South Asian female character, period. Upadhyay’s Didi is a victim who becomes a predatory villain, yet she remains a deeply tragic, near mythic figure, whose actions lead to no happiness, least of all for herself. Continue reading


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Nepal: Literature in a cup

In Nepal, and especially Kathmandu, coffeehouses are too expensive to foster intellectual creativity: Kantipur.com

Today’s coffeehouses in Nepal are nothing like the ones of old in England, or even the old teahouses of Kathmandu that were literary hotspots. They are commercial, expensive and don’t foster an intellectual spirit.

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