Monday, 29 August 2011


Known for its mountains, Nepal might not seem an obvious locale for a literature festival, but the organizers of the first “Kathmandu Literary Jatra” aim to change this perception.

Suvani Singh
The festival, to be held from Sept. 16 to 18, will provide “a platform for local-language literature to engage with its international counterpart” and will also play a pivotal role in bringing Nepali writing to the global stage, says festival director Suvani Singh.

She and her colleagues point out that although Nepal has a strong oral tradition, the nation has long been defined “through the prism of under-development”.  The literary festival is thus a means to show Nepal’s “cultural wealth and change the singular narrative through which it is known internationally,” they add.

Singh says that the idea for the festival began after some Nepali writers attended the Jaipur Literature Festival in India and the experience was widely written about in the local media.

“The idea for the event has generated a lot of interest and excitement here in Kathmandu,” she told SWAN. “Everyone is keen to celebrate literature and ready to discuss different ideas and issues that are relevant in the sub-continent.”

Singh herself got involved because of her love of books and her experience in holding small literary events at a bookshop she runs in Kathmandu called Quixote’s Cove.

Free to the public, the festival will hold readings, talks, discussions, and performances at public venues on topics related to literature and language. Ten international and 50 national writers and poets have been invited, and the organizers promise “extensive interaction between the authors and readers”.

The festival also has the worthy aim of boosting literacy. In the run-up to the event, the organizers said in a statement: “Literacy allows for access to information and opportunities to pursue a better future. As Nepal enters the second decade of the 21st century, it has a population approaching 30 million and a literacy rate slightly above 50%. Reading and writing is only just starting to become a feature of Nepali culture and lifestyle. Till now literature in Nepal has largely been insulated within the languages of Nepal. As a result, the Nepali voice and conscience are largely absent from the global stage.”

Singh personally hopes the festival will help to change this. She says that the sessions planned cover a wide range of topics to reach out to a more diverse crowd, from intellectuals to people who rarely read books.

“There will be lots of parallel activities which will engage even those who normally wouldn't attend literary events,” she told SWAN. “It will hopefully give everyone who attends a memorable experience.” – A.M.