Over the next 30 days, Kathmandu will see not one but two literary festivals. This Thursday, 18 August, is the date of the launch of the Nepal Literature Festival, being held at Jhamsikhel, Lalitpur. It will feature 61 writers, including Ira Trivedi from India and Mark Tully from the UK. Within a month of its end on 21 August, another literary festival is set to begin in nearby historical Patan Durbar Square, from 16-18 September. With 30 national, including those who write in Newari, and 10 international writers so far, the Kathmandu Literary Jatra (of which Himal is a partner), like the Nepal Literature Festival, hopes to provide a global platform to the otherwise largely isolated Nepali literary circles.
Additionally, festival directors, Ajit Baral of the Nepal Literature Festival and Suvani Singh of the Kathmandu Literary Jatra, hope that the festivals will help create a dialogue among and between the writers and readers in Nepal. Although the Nepali literary scene is vibrant and thriving, writers are often unaware of the demands of their readers. ‘With the literacy rate at around 60 percent and growing,’ says Baral, ‘intellectual hunger and demands for quality in literary works have only increased in Nepal. The writers, as well as publishers, like me, need to focus on quality delivery.’
Baral also expects this festival to add a touch of glamour to the profession of writing. Prior to the publication of Narayan Wagle’s Palpasa Café in 2006, Nepali writers writing in Nepali could hardly be labelled ‘celebrities’, a status already enjoyed to some extent by writers such as Samrat Upadhay and Manjushree Thapa who write in English. Since then, however, writers such as Sanjeev Uprety and Buddhisagar have enjoyed immense readership and subsequent fame with their novels Ghanachakkar and Karnali Blues respectively.
While the Nepal Literature Festival aims primarily to foster a stronger bond between writers and their readers, the Kathmandu Literary Jatra will also be focusing on partnering national publishing houses with their international counterparts. ‘We would like the international publishers to realise that there is a market for literary works in Nepal,’ says Singh, adding that the local publishers will get a chance to learn more about their trade through workshops. For instance, the German Book Office, a non-profit organisation that promotes German literature worldwide, will be running workshop sessions on publication, promotion and marketing of children’s literature during the Jatra.
The two festivals are taking place in Nepal at a time when the publishing industry is booming in Southasia (see the May issue of Himal), and literature festivals are cropping up everywhere in the region. In fact, both of these festivals are heavily inspired by the success of Jaipur Literature Festival held annually in Rajasthan, India since 2006. The Jatra even has Namita Gokhale, the co-founder and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, as its festival advisor. Unsurprisingly then, the programme modules for the Nepal festivals are modelled on the Jaipur Literature Festival. While the recently released programme schedule for the Nepal Literature Festival features panel discussions, interview interactions, book launches, readings, and book signings, the programme schedule for the Jatra is slated to also include heritage walks around the Patan area. Most importantly, however, both of these events offer free entry to participants, along the lines of the Jaipur festival.
Although literary circles are abuzz with excitement over these events, the general public has so far been largely unaware of these festivals, let alone that they are free of charge, mostly due to lack of potent publicity. However, Baral hopes that any number of participants, coupled with the organising team’s persistence, will be publicity in itself, as was the case with the Jaipur Literature Festival after its first year. Singh, on the other hand, promises to widen the Jatra’s publicity channels in the final weeks leading up to the event.
Going forward, both Singh and Baral hope to ensure that the festivals become annual events, with a possibility of even taking them to different Nepali cities such as Janakpur, Pokhara and Dharan. As they go along, they even plan to include writers who write in other languages spoken in Nepal.
All told, lovers of literature in Nepal are in for a veritable literary feast.
~ Weena Pun is an assistant editor (web) at Himal Southasian.
Image: Penguin India
Penguin India withdraws The Hindus
On 11 February 2014, Penguin India decided to recall and destroy all remaining copies of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History. The decision was part of an agreement between them and Shiksha Bachao Andolan, a Hindu campaign group that filed a case against the publishers in 2010, arguing that the book was insulting to Hindus and contained “heresies”.
From our archive:
Diwas Kc reviews The Hindus: An Alternative History. (March 2010)