The ASEAN and Asian Conference on Literature and Culture started in Phuket, Thailand, from April 22. Representing Nepal in the conference are poets Keshab Sigdel and Prakash Subedi. The conference is organised by the Department of Cultural Promotion, the Ministry of Culture (Thailand), with support from the Phuket Municipal Office and Phuket Rajabhat University. The convention was inaugurated by Vira Rojpojchanarat, the Thai minister of culture.

Elen Turner reviews Joe Niemczura’s The Sacrament of the Goddess (Austin: Plain View Press, 2014. 263 pp.) and Martin David Hughes’ Jaya Nepal! (Asheville: Simi Books, 2014. 335 pp.)

sacramentNepal is a country about which there is an extremely warped image in the minds of outsiders. The stereotypes do not need repeating, because anyone who has not been to Nepal but has given the country even a cursory thought, knows what they are. There is also very little literature available outside of South Asia that engages with the country in any meaningful way—Canadian-Nepali Manjushree Thapa’s fiction and non-fiction being notable exceptions. Therefore, it is refreshing and promising when non-Nepalis with an extensive knowledge of the country turn to literature to record their experiences.

Joe Niemczura’s The Sacrament of the Goddess and Martin David Hughes’ Jaya Nepal! are two fictionalized accounts of American aid workers’ experiences in Nepal, published by small North American presses. They both have at their heart naïve young men with the best of intentions, who find love and friendship in Nepal. Both Niemczura’s protagonist Matt and Hughes’ protagonist Ben end up working in Nepali hospitals—Matt in the small town of Beni (the site of a large battle between Maoists and the Nepali army in 2004) in the Annapurna region, and Ben in an improbably-named settlement on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Pepsicola Townplanning. Both men have experienced love and heartbreak, the underlying reason for their being in Nepal.

The Nepal Literature Festival has come a long way from its humble beginnings, thanks to its organisers continuing to believe in their dream: The Kathmandu Post

In 2007, the Fine Print Book Club set up a small office in Baluwatar, where they conducted monthly interactive sessions for people who were into reading. Occasional interactions would be held on different subjects and book-lovers came together in small groups to talk about their book fetishes.

For Ajit Baral and Niraj Bhari, the brains behind the reading club, the goal lay farther than just running a book club. As publishers, they had one objective: to promote reading culture in Nepal.

In this interview with Kitaab’s fiction editor Oindrila Mukherjee, Samrat Upadhyay, a fiction writer of Nepali origin, discusses his journey in the world of fiction.

SamratupadhyayHis first book, the short story collection Arresting God in Kathmandu (Houghton Mifflin, 2001) has been translated into French and Greek and was the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award as well as a pick for the 2001 Barnes & Noble Discover Great Writers Program. Upadhyay’s stories have been read live on National Public Radio and published widely as well as in SCRIBNER’S BEST OF THE WRITING WORKSHOPS and BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 1999. Upadhyay’s novel The Guru of Love (Houghton Mifflin, 2003) was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year 2003, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2003, and a BookSense 76 collection. The novel was also a finalist for the 2004 Kiriyama Prize, and has been translated into several European languages. Upadhyay’s story collection, The Royal Ghosts (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), won the 2007 Asian American Literary Award, the Society of Midland Authors Book Award, and was declared a Best of Fiction in 2006 by the Washington Post. The book was also a finalist for the Frank O’Connor Int’l Short Story Award from Ireland and for the Ohioana Book Award.

His second novel Buddha’s Orphans (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) has been called a novel of “ambition and heft” by The New York Times and “beautifully told” by Publishers Weekly, which gave it a starred review. The novel has been translated into German and Czech. It was also longlisted for the DSC Prize in India. The City Son, Upadhyay’s fifth book and third novel, was published last month by Soho Press.

He is the Martha C. Kraft Professor of Humanities at Indiana University.

Are you really the first Nepali writer writing in English to be published in the West as Wikipedia says? And if so, why? What was happening in NEW before you?

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.

Elen Turner reviews The End of the World by Sushma Joshi (Kathmandu: Sansar Books, 2009. 155 pp.) for Kitaab

Sushma_eowwebThe experience of the way this book reached me was, unfortunately, emblematic of the present state of literary circulation in Nepal. I knew that the review copy had been sent to Kathmandu from Singapore, so I waited and waited. And waited. It never arrived. It still may, but I am not hopeful. This was not my first or last experience of things going missing in the mail. The ‘postal system’ of Nepal is not to be trusted, to put it mildly. How, then, can Nepali writers hope to be reviewed internationally and gain recognition outside Nepal, unless they have efficient and forceful promotion and distribution channels based outside the country? English-language writers from Nepal already face a rather awkward predicament, writing in a language that the majority of Nepalis do not read, and yet not visible internationally in the same way that neighbouring Indian, Pakistani or, increasingly, Bangladeshi writers in English are. Fortunately, the author arranged for the book to be delivered to me in this instance. This ad-hoc means of distribution and promotion should not be necessary, although those of us involved in publishing in this country know that it is.

This rather dire state of affairs is not reflective of what is actually taking place in English-language writing in Nepal, however. Sushma Joshi’s The End of the World is a readable collection of short stories from an author who comes across as both worldy and intimately connected to the local Nepali milieu that she recreates. She is as comfortable recreating the thoughts and actions of a teenage girl as she is of a middle-aged man, which lends variety to the stories within the collection.