Monday, November 03, 2008

"New Nepal, New Voices" in Literary Review, the Hindu

Insights into Nepal
Short stories that traverse many topics but remain rooted in the Nepali context.

New Voices, New Nepal; edited by Sushma Joshi and Ajit Baral, Rupa, Rs. 195.
New Voices, New Nepal is a collection of stories written by Nepali writers, living in different parts of the world.

The aim of the anthology, say the editors, is to give a feel of these writers' association with their country, in which many stories are successful.
Among the best are "The Hill" and "Of Heroes and Onions". The Hill, written by Greta Rana is a story of a lush-green hill with thick forests, which loses all its beauty when marble miners devastate it. Greta writes: "The quarry was a deep wound into the main body of the hill: a huge Caesarean section that was performed by several mechanized monsters with pincered shovels….Under artificial lighting the machines plunged in and out in a kind of macabre simulation of gigantic copulation: continual rape." Simple but powerful The story won the prize for the best text at the Inernationale Arnsberger Kurzprosa in 1991.

"Of Heroes and Onions" is a story about people rising. The story revolves around a great leader who gives high hopes and makes incredible promises for the Janta. The leader is highly supported by the people who are in desperate need of positive changes in the country — food and clothes for the poor and a stable economy for all. Quite relevant in the context of Nepal, that is being restructured to be named 'New Nepal', the writer, Sanjeev Uprety then goes on relating the leader with an onion, when he lets down the people's expectations.


It seems Uprety is trying to warn all the leaders (the Maoists mainly), in a changed context of Nepal, to fulfil their commitments and be different than those who could not keep the promises in the past.

"Love and Lust in Maoist Hinterland", a journey of a British photojournalist during the time of armed struggle in Nepal, describes how his desire to stay with the Maoist militias could not be fulfilled when they didn't grant him permission.

Though the editor Sushma Joshi claims that the collected stories speak of the Nepali context, "The Face of Carolynn Flint" does not shed any light on Nepal. Written by Prawin Adhikari, it's, however, an interesting story about an American woman with changeable faces.

This anthology has stories from all spheres — from inept bureaucracy to politics, from aspirations of the youth to cynicism of the elderly, all mostly in Nepal's context. As far as language is concerned, renowned writer Samrat Upadhay says, "The narratives are distinctively Nepali, but they also move ahead the boundaries of the parochial, landlocked Nepal and reveal a country whose physical space is as fluid as its national identity."

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