Nepal (and international) Literature Festival


The Nepal Literature Festival (NLF) has expanded in scope and content since it started eight years ago, and the 2019 edition this weekend will bring even more international authors to Pokhara.

Over 35 sessions feature more than 70 writers and public personalities, who will discuss a host of issues, from writing and regional literature to conservation and gender. Since 2011 the festival has hosted international writers like Muhamed Haneef and Shobhaa De along with the entire spectrum of literature in Nepali and indigenous languages.

As the space for literary and artistic expression and critical commentary shrinks across South Asia, Nepal remains a bastion of free speech. This year, civil society activist Devendra Raj Pandey will deliver a keynote on Democratic Development and Public Accountability.

The prestigious DSC Prize, awarded for fiction from South Asia, will be announced at NLF this year. (See box) Some of the shortlisted authors and jury members of the DSC will also participate in panel discussions, at a time of growing regional tensions and intolerance towards free expression.

"This year we were particular about giving space to new and unheard of voices. We are excited about the diverse topics and list of people that we were able to line up," says festival director Ajit Baral.

NLF also offers plenty of commentaries on current social issues. Sportswomen Nanita Maharjan and Mira Rai will be reflecting on Nepal's recent successes at the South Asian Games, in the context of the rise of women in sports. Dalit activist Aahuti will present a commentary on Nepal's social structure, while Miss Nepal Shrinkhala Khatiwada will portray her vision of a dream Nepal in a discussion on menstrual taboos with journalist Menuka Dhungana from Achham and Mohna Ansari.

Besides social issues, the festival also features literary topics, including the essay, the poem, the short story, jail literature and children's literature. Populism versus art in folk songs is also in the spotlight.

The festival also includes lighthearted entertainment with a session of ghazal recitations, and ends with a spiritual and philosophical lecture by Saurabh about Nepal's rich civilisations.

IME Nepal Literature Festival

Tal Barahi Chok, Lakeside, Pokhara

13-16 December

DSC Prize Announcement

The $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature is awarded to one novel about South Asia, and is presented in a different city every year. This year, six writers are on the shortlist, four of Indian and one each of Pakistani and Afghan origin. The prize announcement will conclude the festival.

5-6PM, 16 Dec

Notable sessions for international audiences

Gunpowder in the air

With Manoranjan Byapari

The pioneer Bengali writer Manoranjan Byapari became a sensation because of his working-class background and lack of formal education. Scholar Dinesh Kafle will talk to the dalit activist and former rickshaw puller about caste and privilege, and how these inform writing in South Asia.

Kabi Shiromani Lekhnathh Hall

3-4PM, 14 Dec

Writing home and the homeland

With Jamil Jan Kochai

Jamil Jan Kochai, an American of Afghan origin, was born in a refugee camp. He writes about the turbulent times that Afghanistan has gone through. Poet Itisha Giri will chat with Kochai about using the homeland in a novel.

Ali Miya Hall

4-5PM, 14 Dec

Powering sustainably

With Kulman Ghising, Soma Dutta, Priyantha Wijayatunga

As Nepal’s energy needs grow and the climate crisis deepens, how do we balance the two? Journalist Rupak Sharma will engage panellists Kulman Ghising of the Nepal Electricity Authority and energy experts Soma Dutta and Priyantha Wijayatunga.

Kabi Shiromani Lekhnathh Hall

11-12AM, 15 Dec

Translating South Asia

With Arunava Sinha, Rifat Munim, Carmen Wickramagamage

Most South Asian authors still write in regional languages, but awards, recognition and sales happen in English. Writer Amish Mulmi will discuss these issues with translators Arunava Sinha, Rifat Munim and Carmen Wickramagamage.

Ali Miya Hall

2-3PM, 15 Dec

Writing in the age of populism

Is literary writing getting lost in the age of click-bait? Writer Anagha Neelkantan will discuss with writers Jeremy Tambling, Harish Nambiar and Jamil Jan Kochai how to keep the literary spirit up, against market demands of saleable content.

Kabi Shiromani Lekhnathh Hall

4-5PM, 15 Dec

Nepal in the international media

With Sumnina Udas, Deepak Adhikari, Rajneesh Bhandari

With the rise of Nepali journalists in international media, Nepal is no longer seen only through the western lens. How does this define Nepal today? AFP journalist Paavan Mathema talks to former CNN journalist Sumnima Udas and freelance reporters Deepak Adhikari and Rajneesh Bhandari.

Paavan Mathema

Kabi Shiromani Lekhnathh hall

12-1PM, 16 Dec

English and vernacular literatures in South Asia

Though writing in English brings more worldwide recognition to South Asian writers, it also comes at the expense of vernacular literatures. Writer and literature teacher Sanjeev Uprety discusses this dilemma with teacher and literature theorist Harish Trivedi, also a jury member of DSC this year.

Kabi Shiromani Lekhnathh hall

1-2PM, 16 Dec

Writing the past

The themes of Amitabha Bagchi's novels about India's recent past echo around South Asia. Writer Ajapa Sharma talks to Bagchi about the common heritage of South Asians and how to go about excavating the past in literature.

Ali Miya hall

2-3PM, 16 Dec