1. What was the last book that you read?
The last book I read is Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum.
2. What is your favorite genre?
When I think of writing I enjoy being in novel and essay. But time has compelled me to do criticism more than anything, against my desire.
For reading I prefer classics, philosophy and literary theory.
3. Many writers as well as critics say that we have a very weak culture of criticism. What is your observation?
The present is the weakest of all points in an history of about one hundred years of modern Nepali literature. All dimensions of time and space have changed and our creations have changed tremendously but our principles of evaluation, that is criticism, has remained constant, stagnant and too conservative. This cannot do full justice, not even half to contemporary writing. It’s three decades now that critical theories are at a standstill. They are either extremely polluted or too outdated.
4. What is the current state of translation in Nepal? Have the Nepali literature, which are translated into English, reached to the wider audiences?
It is very encouraging. Our Universities have introduced Translation Studies courses in most Degree level language literature syllabuses; some Departments have even introduced it in the Bachelor’s level. Now it is not the translation people generally perceive; it is the theory on par with contemporary researches and advanced studies in translation worldwide. Secondly, the Central Departments have started giving due importance to texts in translation for research and dissertation writings; this has also promoted Nepali literature, translation theory and Nepali variety of English simultaneously because naturally translation is a bilingual as well as bicultural activity.
Thirdly, the newly formed Nepal Academy has set up Department of Translation and World Literature. It is a most commendable decision though it is too young to envisage works like History of translation in Nepal, Nepali theory of translation, Translation and translators in Nepal etc. without which we cannot present our picture of translation.
Yes, that is a crucial question and I feel hesitant to say yes, however, if we visit shops like Pilgrims at Thamel you can find many titles on translation. They say there are a good number of ( foreign ) readers too, but two points are worth considering — firstly, the titles are scanty and there is no channel to inform readers about Nepali novels, for example, which titles are regarded best and which ones are available in translation.
Secondly and most importantly, so long as we have this one-way book traffic between Nepal and India, all our publication, including translation, will never see a wider world, not even India; it reverses, Nepal has ever been India’s largest book market. Its uneven and unjust principle which has arrested our growth in the book world as a whole, including translation.
There is still another point of which I should make a mention — the total titles on translation is within one thousand. Ideally they say every literature should see that some 20 per cent of it goes on translation. It is a two-way traffic — giving and taking. As we are lacking in Nepali theory of translation, what we have gained is for a labor of love, randomly, haphazardly, mostly carried out by novice hands and dilettantes. All titles are not worth reading so more quantity and better quality should be our goal of translation at present I hope Translation Studies courses will help improve this situation and establish this as a popular discipline. Wee need translation expertise in growing number.
5. How did you inculcate the habit of reading?
My high school library of Adarsha Vidya Mandir, Ghailadubba, Jhapa, those great teachers and later on a wider world to which one is lured through the magic of letters. Actually reading had turned into a passion before I could feel what I liked most. Time paved my way.
6. Books you want to recommend to others?
I don’t like to furnish a long list — but start with great works in Nepali first then move to English or world literature in translation. One’s life will change with the Siddhartha or An Autobiography of a Yogi or The Good Earth. It is power of language, style and theme and the message. Though a world made up of imagination is true to life. Choose genres of your liking and start and continue until it grows into an irresistible passion. A tremendous world reveals itself.
Shall I recommend? Not titles but areas only. First one should love, honor and have faith in the Oriental world, the immense height that they gained in the fields of knowledge, art, science and wisdom in antiquity. I wish I should not have wasted my life by reading the West, I deceived myself by pretending to earn knowledge this way whereas the root of all knowledge is the East; the Oriental knowledge of the past. I have still ample time to repeat to have missed the path to ultimate reality, and the greatest treasure in the world. I will turn rootless if I don’t have love for my own root.
7. Any overrated and underrated books?
It is only the perspectives of the viewers. Some writers and even publishers try to advertise books like any consumers good of new brand or a nutrient health drink through life size hoarding boards or the powerful media in the affluent urban centers , whereas many in the moffusil are silent quiet and hesitant to show up.
But time not water, find its own level. It took some three hundred years for John Donne to be honored. He was almost buried in oblivion till TS Eliot revisited the glorious past. I say you are creating literature, a thing of perennial value, no unnecessary ad please.
Interview by Ujjwal Prasain