Find themes for books

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I came back with an armful of Nepali books after recently participating in what was called a “book launch” program. They were meant to be basically literary books. None of the books were written on the current themes that are rampant today. It’s a trend. Here, I would like to briefly allude to this phenomenon of dealing with various themes to write books in Nepali. I have in mind a selection of Nepalese books published in contemporary times. They are said to be contemporary works. Either way, the writers confidently state that the genre of their writing is literary, although this subject demands deep and informed discussion. Anyway, these books are eloquent on a number of things. The most important of these is the choice of themes for writing the book. Elaborating on a particular subject in different chapters constitutes a book. This is the simplest description of a book. In some of them, I also felt an attempt to galvanize current discussion topics on Nepali social and political orientations. I could see a smart choice of themes for this kind of cross-disciplinary effort by some of the writers. They touched the contact areas of literature and opinion. But not all of them have done so successfully for various reasons, including the limited scope of the writer’s studies.

Interpretation themes

To dwell a little more on the theme of the book, I would like to recall what my favorite writer and theorist, the late Italian Umberto Eco, said about books in an interview with The Guardian in 2011. He said, “I think a book should be judged 10 years later, after reading it and re-reading it. But the books I’m trying to refer to don’t need that description. I’m just trying to see what kinds of themes and topics have attracted book writers over the years. I’m just skimming through themes and areas of interest. They show how writers chose both introverted, social and cultural themes for their writing. I want to go back briefly to the history of political change and book writing in Nepal. I am referring to the period following the fall of the Panchayat system introduced by the late King Mahendra in 1990.

The euphoria of victory mood opened many fronts of expression. A review of history was the most dominant mood. The panchayat had so strongly dominated the thought process and the psyche of interpreting history that writers, especially historians and political analysts, turned to the personalities of politicians or leaders of democratic movements, living or dead. Writing about the lives of these leaders as well as making documentary films have become the order of the day. I cannot go into this subject in more detail here. The works on BP Koirala, which included his own writings, Ganesh Man Singh and Pushpa Lal, which included his own writings, formed the main body of these books. BP’s memoirs, diaries and fiction came out in droves, so to speak.

During this euphoria, some of the Panchayat-era bureaucrats and soldiers also jumped on the bandwagon. Apolitical person, I too have been linked to the times of the publication of some of these books. A slim but significant collection of historical speeches by Girija Prasad Koirala titled Simple convictions (2007), nicely edited by Kanak Dixit, was published by Madhab Lal Maharjan of Mandala Book Point. I was invited by Kanak and Madhab to speak about the book at Yak & Yeti hotel on February 1, 2007. I freely interpreted Girijababu’s works, life and politics in a very informal way that the public has greeted with standing ovations and laughter which I can see on the video today. By inviting a literary writer, and not a political scientist, to talk about the work of a politician whose interest in literature is not recorded anywhere, they wanted to flout certain established rules. Prime Minister Koirala was unable to attend.

The following year, a similar pattern repeated itself. I was invited by the publisher and the writer to give a keynote speech at the launch of a book called Prachanda: the unknown revolutionary (2008) written by Anirban Roy, a Hindustan time journalist and published by Mandala Book Point at Himalaya Hotel on September 19, 2008. While waiting for the arrival of the Prime Minister, I was alone on the dais with Prachanda’s father, a simple farmer named Muktinath. He was the first person to listen to my review of his son’s book that morning. Prime Minister Prachanda was unable to attend. I allude to these two incidents for their interesting parallelism. I didn’t have to talk about those books after that. The political leaders themselves took it upon themselves to talk about anyone in their party. No political scholar, let alone a literary writer, seems to be invited to speak about these books, if at all.

New mode and atmosphere

For lack of space, I do not want to review the literary works that were written after the second revolution and the period after. But after all these years, a new mode and mood of writing and publishing books has become the order of the day. He went from being in a mood to valuing the personalities of so-called great politicians. Maybe people are disappointed about them. However, it remains to be established. When you realize there are no politicians or heroes to turn to, you turn to yourself, to the memories of your own toil and pain. Most books today are written by the writer himself. But some of them are written by ghostwriters who are openly mentioned in some books. Today, several books are written about the experience of migrant workers.

A strong point of these writings is that people want to transfer the experience into the text. Such a practice has two advantages. The first benefit is that such an impersonal art form heals your wounds and disturbing memories. I consider it a great achievement. The second benefit is that you peek into current history through the metafictional accounts of your experience. A blurred line separates fiction from reality. There are examples of literary writings that created the very power of events in history. For this, your contemporaneity plays a role. The stories of Sadat Hassan Manto are the most eloquent examples of this. He writes about the human condition created by the history of India’s partition. But he was moving on the periphery of such historical experience. He himself suffered from this turbulent border experience for which, reluctantly, he had to leave Bombay where his creative commitments flourished. Nepali writers have also written about their experiences, although a few of them have produced works that deserve the attention of avid readers of literature. This topic requires in-depth discussions.

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