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.