Pokhara : The eighth edition of IME Nepal Literature Festival (NLF), organized by the Bookworm Foundation and Random Readers’ Society, is all ready to mesmerize the Lake City of Pokhara from December 13 to 16.
For four days, the festival will bring together, by the Phewa lakeside, a dozen international speakers and over 70 national writers, artists, thinkers and public personalities for a celebration of words and ideas.
The Chief Guest of the event will be Hon. Prithvi Subba Gurung, Chief Minister of Gandaki Pradesh. The inauguration on December 13 will be a break from tradition, with Anita, Mamata and Manita Sundas chanting hymns from the Vedas. The Sundas sisters have laid claim to a skill that was traditionally dominated by Brahmin males, reflecting the positive transformations in Nepal that NLF aims to capture. This will be followed by a Keynote Speech on ‘Democratic Development and Public Accountability’ by Dr. Devendra Raj Panday, noted civil society leader. Also a former Finance Minister and Finance Secretary of Nepal, he has published ‘The Idea of Integrity and the Universe of Corruption and Anticorruption.’
A major highlight of NLF is the announcement of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019. It is the first time that an international literary award of such repute is being organized in Nepal. The prize, which carries a purse of USD 25,000, is awarded annually to South Asian writing. Says Surina Narula, co-founder of the award, “The prize and NLF share a common vision to promote and highlight South Asian literature, and there’s a rich literary landscape in Nepal which will hopefully benefit from this partnership.” “All five jury members will attend different panels at NLF along with the shortlisted authors and translator.
Ajit Baral, Festival Director of NLF, is equally excited about hosting the DSC Prize. “The award ceremony, and its objective, sync with our aspiration to turn NLF into a neutral South Asian forum for writers, artists, intellectuals and politicians of the region to come together and discuss a cornucopia of issues, including those which might be off-limits in other parts of the region,” he says, “We are also excited to introduce a medley of some of the finest writers writing about South Asia to the Nepali audience.”
Besides the sessions with international speakers, the sessions in Nepali will encompass diverse themes: literary trends and transitions; battle of the genres; musical conundrums; homage to past litterateurs; poetic revolutions; children’s literature; the creative process and readership. Political and social issues such as future leadership; Nepal’s power and tourism sector; journalism and media in the present day; social mores and conventions; as well as the psychology of the modern Nepali will be deciphered during the sessions. Three publications will be unveiled at NLF, besides the regular poetry and ghazal sessions.
Speaking at the press conference, Keshav Sharan Lamichhane, president of the Random Readers Society, said he was proud to have been able to bring NLF to Pokhara. “The Festival has played an instrumental role in the promotion of Pokhara as a literary-cultural city,” he said.
Speaking at the press conference, Anisha Baraili, vice-president of What the Book Club, said the Festival had played a major role in fostering reading culture among the youth of Pokhara. “NLF has changed Pokhara’s identity as a vacation city to a city of art and literature,” Baraili said.
“The very founding of the Book Club was inspired by the NLF,” Baraily said, emphasizing the need to extend such festivals to several other cities as well.
“We made a doubly conscious effort this year to include voices from the young and upcoming; the unheard and underrepresented. We scouted for people and issues that impact our discourses and, ultimately, the literature we produce,” says Shivani Singh Tharu, one of the Festival curators.
This attempt has resulted in a handful of unique sessions at NLF, ranging from unsung heroes serving the nation to the practice of chaupadi (menstrual segregation) in the nooks and crannies of Nepal. Two well-established personalities will discuss their need to return to formal education after a hiatus, while two women athletes will touch upon their trials and achievements.
Says Chandra Prasad Dhakal, Chairman of IME Group, “NLF is our attempt to support the creation of an open and public space for discussion and creation. Our collaboration the last year was fantastic, and IME Group is proud to be fostering the democratic tradition not only within the country, but in the entirety of South Asia.
Former attendees of NLF are all praise for this endeavor to create an open and varied space for dialogue. Actor and Writer Manisha Koirala, who launched her memoir ‘Healed’ at the Nepal Literature Festival last year, says, “NLF has established itself as a confluence of the arts, society and literature. You come back from the vibrant discussions feeling enriched and energized.”
The location of NLF itself has also received much appreciation. Says Pakistani Author Mohammed Hanif, a panelist at NLF 2018, “NLF has the most stunning venue by the lakeside and mountains. I don’t think any other literature festival in the world has that kind of backdrop. It is also a very intimate setup. If you’re lucky enough to get an invite, say yes and just come!’
By Bookworm Foundation and Random Readers’ Society