Want to establish Nepal lit fest as neutral south Asian forum: Director

Zafri Mudasser Nofil

Pokhara (Nepal), Dec 19 (PTI) The Nepal Literature Festival has been able to generate considerable interest among the people of the country since it began in 2011 and now it has the potential of becoming a neutral South Asian forum for writers and thinkers, says one the festival’s directors.

The eighth edition of the festival was held here from December 13 to 16 on the banks of the Fewa lake with the Himalayas in the backdrop.

Kathmandu hosted the first four editions of the festival and after a devastating earthquake struck Nepal in 2015 followed by an economic blockade some months later, there were suggestions the event should be moved out of the capital city, says director Ajit Baral.

“Pokhara was the obvious choice as both Niraj Bhari (the other director) and I are from this city and also because of its scenic beauty,” he says, adding they were, however, unsure of the turnout.

“We knew that organising a literary festival in a relatively new place would make for a huge undertaking, but we also knew that we had the vision, spirit, and most importantly, the diligence to make our festival a success. Today, the festival has become an important event in the literary and cultural landscape of Nepal,” he says.

After eight editions, he says, the organiser Bookworm Foundation, a collective of publishers, journalists and writers, now believe they are ready to take the next great leap and turn the festival into a truly South Asian event.

“The festival has emerged as a great platform for upcoming writers from our country and in coming years we want to develop it as a neutral South Asian forum for writers, thinkers and intellectuals from the region to discuss several topical issues including those which may be off limits in their respective countries,” Baral told PTI.

According to Bhari, “Our aim is to encourage the culture of healthy debates, wide readership and an intimate relation between creators and audience. Presence of large crowds during the festival was highly encouraging, motivating us to continue our endeavour.” Apart from international speakers, dozens of Nepal writers, cinema actors and celebrities, editors and columnists, journalists, social activists and businesspersons attended as speakers this year’s festival at the Taal Barahi Chowk on the banks of Fewa lake in this picturesque city.

Despite bad weather on the inaugural day, visitors thronged the venue to listen to the speakers and meet their favourite authors.

The sessions ranged from book launches to conversations with sportspersons, and debates on geopolitics to the changing face of folk music.

There were also sessions on need to rejuvenate the Fewa lake to conserve ecosystem, women’s rights and feminist movement in Nepal, challenges of federalism and world of books in prison.

The highlight of the festival was the announcement of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019, Amitabha Bagchi Monday won the USD 25,000 prize for his post-colonial novel “Half the Night is Gone” that unfolds over three generations, explores human relationships, and the intertwining of fates and cultures in an Indian context.

The book beat “99 Nights in Logar” (Jamil Jan Kochai), “The Far Field” (Madhuri Vijay), “There’s Gunpowder in the Air” (Manoranjan Byapari, translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha), “The City and the Sea” (Raj Kamal Jha), “The Empty Room” (Sadia Abbas) which were in the race.

Bagchi was handed over the prize by Nepal's Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali on the concluding day of the festival. PTI ZMN RDS RDS