Energy. Change. New beginnings. This is what marks the transition of Nepal from feudal to democratic, from old to new, from conflict to peace. When we sat down to edit this collection, we sought short stories which explored this moment. Whether writers were based in Kathmandu, California or China, we wanted to know their lived experience and relationship with Nepal.
We asked for effable, humorous, beautiful stories. And we got them. from the opening story, Prawin Adhikari's 'The Face of Carolynn Flint', which looks at the relationship between a blasé young Nepali writer and a real estate agent in the Bay Area with a penchant for cosmetic surgery, to 'Heroes and Onions', in which writer and professor Sanjeev Uprety explores the absurdity of politics through the layers of a giant onion, the collection reverberates with the concerns of the last decade in Nepali history. From diaspora to political turmoil, from spirituality to alienation, the stories offer glimpses of the Nepali soul.
As editors with our own particular biases, we fought about which stories to include. Ajit found the language of 'Regiment Training' difficult, but I thought it had echoes of Foucault and Kafka. I found the violence in 'Downpour' disturbing, but Ajit defended it as a valid reflection of the masculine psyche. We puzzled about the non-man's land setting of Sunil Nepali's 'The Interview', and then decided to leave the location (a land of indeterminate nationality) unchanged since it seemed to reflect the grey zone of migration and travel in which many contemporary Nepalis live.
Now here's the confessional moment: I have to admit that there is an element of irony in the book's chosen title. As one poet noticed. Nepal has seen a chorus of 'New Nepal' events, everything from art to sculpture to poetry. The hype around the political transition has been enormous, and the dividends not proportionate to the rhetoric. As those of us who live in the new Nepal know, things are not always as new as we would imagine it to be. Economic, social and political changes haven't reached everyone equitably, and old concerns and challenges still scho in our lives. Some may think that the child sacrifice in Wayne Amtzis's story unrealistic for the new Nepal but w metaphorically continue to sacrifice our children in the form of street children and child soldiers even now.
The other limitation of the anthology can be seen with a glance at our table of contents: despite our best attempts to be gender, caste and ethnicity inclusive, our table of contents is heavy with the usual suspects. Because of our decision to take work directly written in English (and not accept translation), we had difficulty finding work by Janjati and Dalit women. This may be a failure of outreach on our part, rather than on any lack of Dalit or Janjati women writing in English. I hope in the near future somebody with time and dedication will put together an anthology with these particular writers in mind.
Besides the outer world of political change, the inner world of psychological change remains the other familiar terrain in these short stories. Whether emerging or famous, realist or surrealist, whether their English stems from living in an English speaking country of through reading books at the British Council Library, the writers of this collection have managed to reflect the Nepali experience through their own particular lenses. And this diversity is what makes me think this anthology is timely for not only are we a nation of multiple voice, but also one that through the clamour make an edgy sense.
Back of the Book
The stories in New Nepal, New Voices illustrate that Nepali writing in English is not only alive but bursting with energy. Gone are the days of tortured metaphors borrowed from Shelley and Keats, the days of believing that the only way we could write was by mimicking the literary giants of our southern neighbour. The narratives in this book are distinctively Nepali, but they also move beyond the boundaries of the parochial, landlocked Nepal and reveal a county whose physical space is as fluid as its national identity.
Sushma Joshi is a Nepali writer and filmmaker. Her writing has been published in Vietnam, Philippines, Italy, Germany Australia, England and USA, in publications like Utne Reader, Ms. Maazine, East of the Web, Cold River Review, SAMAR Magazine, Buran, Saigon Tiep Thi magazine, etc. Her short story anthology, titled End of the World is forthcoming. She founded and edited Reproductions, an online journal, via Harvard University.
Ajit Baral is a writer based in Kathmandu. He has contributed to Biblio: A Review of Book Tehelka, The Book Review, the Daily Star, and to several other Nepali newspapers and journals. His collection of interviews with international writers was published in 2007. He edits Read, a quarterly book magazine and runs a publishing house called Fine Print.
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