Looking back at the year 2014, one can say that the Nepali literary scene was dominated by nonfiction works. And biographical books occupied a larger shelf-space under the nonfiction category. Some books became popular for their subjects and others on account of the mere profile of the authors.
The former chief of the Nepal Army, Rookmangud Katawal, who had had an acrimonious relationship with the then UCPN (Maoist) government, published a memoir recalling his tenure. The book got a lot of media hype and response, not to forget a derisive one from UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The book sold very well, regardless.
Another biographical work that made it to the best-selling list of 2014 was “Cheena Harayeko Manchhe” by actor/comedian Haribansha Acharya. Journalists Kishor Nepal and Bijay Kumar also came out with their autobiographies this year, and they were both well-received. Nepal and Kumar—both seasoned figures in the Nepali media industry—provided the readers got the opportunity to become the critics, the role otherwise reserved for journalists and commentators.
Whenever a journalist ventures into publishing his or her biographical work, it is to tell the little stories and back-stories that has not gotten media coverage; it is a form of recording history. The works by Nepal and Kumar also reflected this purpose.
Other notable biographical works of 2014 came from Nawaraj Subedi, Bishwabandhu Thapa and Ramhari Joshi.
The year was certainly a banner one for non-fiction. Even the year’s Madan Puraskar, the country’s most prestigious literary honour, was awarded to a work of nonfiction—”Khalanga Ma Hamala”, a diary by Radha Poudel, which recounts the attack by Maoist rebels at Khalanga, the district headquarters of Jumla during the insurgency.
And even in this year of non-fiction, there was no shortage of novels, short stories or works of poetry. It should be noted the year witnessed a marked increase in the number fiction works by female authors. Novels like “White Crane” by Manisha Gauchan, “Aarki Aaimai” by Nilam Karki, “Kayakalpa” by Kalpana Bantawa and “Kalo Chhaya” by Anupam Roshi were all published in 2014.
The other popular novels published last year were “Ghamkiri” by Nayanraj Pandey, “Kopila Ashram” by Ramesh Koirala, “Raat Phuleko Yam” by Dipshikha, “Raktabij” by Krishna Abiral and “Draupadi” by Rajendra Thapa.
Similarly, Subin Bhattarai helped popularise the concept of the sequel novel by publishing “Saya”. Two years earlier, he had gained popularity with his hit debut “Summer Love”.
So what was the most talked-about subject in the Nepali literary scene last year? It wasn’t a book, nor was it any author. That subject was probably the marketing of books. Clearly, the writers and publishers alike were divided on the subject, and the issue became a topic of debate during literary events.
While there were some writers and publishers who fervently believed that marketing played a huge role in sales as well as the popularity of books, there were others who were of the opinion that it’s a sin to rely on advertising to jack up book sales. This debate is not ending anytime soon, and weighing in on this literary fracas are, on one corner, mostly the young-generation writers who support the marketing aspect of book publishing— who see writing as both art and a glamour form; on the other corner stand those writers who still believe that a writer should be measured by his work, that a literary work should not be forced on readers.
The argument also presents the picture of a changing literary landscape. There’s no denying that the new-generation writers are making inroads, and along with them, they are also bringing in new styles of writing—for better or worse.
In the mean time, we can only hope that the writers, of both fiction and nonfiction, continue to churn out new works that are creative and enlightening in 2015. And who knows the next year could very well be the year of fiction.
Writers like Narayan Dhakal, Nayanraj Pandey, Hari Adhikari, Kumar Nagarkoti, Buddhisagar, Yug Pathak and Amar Neupane have already announced their new novels. All of them have already proved their mettle. As for nonfiction, it could strike from anywhere.