“I’m not a young man anymore, so I feel like I have to get out all the writing that is in me,” says Gopal Parajuli. Many Nepali readers know him from the stories they have read, the plays they have witnessed and the poems they have savored.
From school textbooks to newspapers, his writing has found a place throughout the decades. But clearly, he doesn’t take the position for granted. He elaborates that he is planning to publish another book. This time around it’s going to be a collection of poems. The release date hasn’t been set yet but it apparently came about because of late he has been feeling the need to reflect. Parajuli sat down with The Week’s Priyanka Gurung to talk about that and more.
What do you like to write about these days? What’s your current subject of interest?
I find myself very much occupied with the global issue of terrorism these days. Things about peace and humanism intrigue me a lot these days so I have been writing a lot about that.
I wonder if this can really be called a new interest because my very first published work, The Two Extremes, also depicted conflict. Even though nobody had prompted me to pick this topic, I wrote championing the need for solidarity.
Anyways, terrorism and violence is such a raging current threat. Just take the example of North Korea, a couple seconds of bad decision on their part could plunge the world in terror so I feel like it is my duty to write about and advocate peace right now.
Do you really believe that writing about it will have an impact?
I think when we write about peace, in many ways, we also end up addressing human fears. It’s not like writing about terror will help cease war but still we can’t stop advocating peace. When we address these matters, it feels like we are giving recognition to the victims. Who knows, we might even be able to console them.
We, of course, can’t guarantee an impact but as writers I want to pick topics that have such influence on our world and lives. Even though it might take a while for the message to spread through to the masses, this is something that needs to be done.
Is there a specific reason why you choose to write your views via literature?
My concerns are often about humanism and society but, if I were to talk about them directly, there is always that chance that I will come off as a politician. There is always that chance that my sentiments will be taken as a written speech. But when I write about these issues through literature, it doesn’t come off as mere rhetoric.
As for choosing different mediums, different forms of literature have their own style of expression. I feel plays portray conflicts the best. When I feel like being more introspective, I lean towards poems more and so on it goes. I also like being an experimental writer because then I have the freedom to bring out a fusion of thoughts and styles.
Are there any works that you draw inspiration from for your own experimental writing?
Since I write in experimental form, I don’t follow any writers. Besides I think more writers need to come out with their own styles of writing be it on the literary, academic or philosophical front. New thoughts and new forms of presentation should be encouraged. So while I enjoy the works of many writers, I choose not to follow them.
What do you think of our current literary scene?
Over the years there have been many positive developments. There are more educated people. The attention and interest in books , writing, and reading are also increasing but along with the developments there have been some negative influence as well.
Sometimes, it feels that rather than writing for humanitarian purposes, the writers have their own agendas. Some are opportunistic. Before they write, they ask who is the person I am writing about? Which party do they belong to? How will it serve me? There are those who don’t get tangled in this but there are many who do as well.
I miss the kind of literary works that were being published in the times of Mohan Koirala or Gopal Prasad Rimal. These days it seems commercial literary works are being more championed.
Do you feel like you have managed to maintain the integrity of your work and, if so, how?
When I started writing and publishing in the early 1970s, I was told by seniors in the field that this would be a difficult sphere to enter. They warned me that there would be many who wouldn’t let me progress, try and pull my leg at every opportunity and all that. But I wasn’t writing because I was being told to do so. Writing for me is like meditating. Those who want to do it can’t be stopped or distracted.
But it’s not easy. You certainly have to persevere. But I write because I want to do my part to contribute to society. If the future generations were to analyze these decades, with my work, I want to help them understand. That’s all. I don’t worry about other things. I don’t know what will become of my work but I want to finish writing all that is left in me.
Were you always certain that you would gain all this recognition?
I have confidence in my work. I think the effort is worthy but as we know sometimes those who deserve to win, don’t and those whose work are below par, do. You can’t guarantee these things so I don’t write for recognition. It’s best not to make it your priority.
On Parajuli’s bookshelf
This just has to be my first recommendation. This might not be on top of most people’s to-read list, but I will argue that it should. Bhagavad Gita isn’t only for the religious reader. It has in it some of the most insightful takes on life. The subjects that it covers and the way it presents them are undisputable.
Paradise Lost by John Milton
This is obviously considered an epic poem and critics consider it to be Milton’s major work. The verses are centered on the temptation of Adam and Eve and it helped solidify his reputation as one of the greatest English poets of his time. As a poet myself, it is always a pleasure to read it.
Vichar Vigyan by Khaptad Baba
The science of thought goes the book title and again this book too has many lessons on how we should go on about life. If you have ever wondered where our thoughts come from, the shape, color, and power of thought, and how it influences the body, then this book is a must read.
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Opinions on this book tend to be divided but, personally, I thought it was a masterpiece. This book was suggested to me by a lecturer. Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection of Whitman’s life work laid bare for everyone to take in on one go. It is also enhanced by helpful notes and commentary that many will enjoy.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
I suspect many already know that this is a 1969 autobiography about the early years of American writer and poet Maya Angelou. When I read this book, I couldn’t help but be impressed with Angelou’s artistic way of expressing herself. Her writing style, along with her life story, makes for a fascinating read.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon Price: Rs 638
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story. Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us. The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true? This dazzling new novel from Nicola Yoon, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything, will have you falling in love with Natasha and Daniel as they fall in love with each other.
Everybody's son by Thirty Umrigar Price: Rs 958
During a terrible heat wave in 1991, ten-year-old Anton has been locked in an apartment alone, for seven days, without air conditioning or a fan. Hot, hungry, and desperate, Anton shatters a window and climbs out. Cutting his leg on the broken glass, he is covered in blood when the police find him. Juanita, his mother, is discovered in a crack house, nearly unconscious and half-naked. She never meant to leave Anton. She went out for a quick hit and was headed back when her drug dealer raped her and kept her high. Anton is placed with child services while Juanita goes to jail. The Harvard-educated son of a US senator, Judge David Coleman is desperate to have a child in the house again after the tragic death of his teenage son and uses his power to keep his new foster son, Anton. Anton rises within the establishment. But when he discovers the truth about his life, he must come to terms with the moral complexities of crimes committed by the people he loves most.
Snuffing Out the Moon by Osama Siddique Price: Rs 958
2084 BCE: In the great city of Mohenjodaro, a young man named Prkaa grows increasingly mistrustful of the growing authority of a cult of priests. 455 CE: In the university city of Takshasilla, Buddhamitra, a monk, is distressed by how his colleagues seem to have lost sight of the essence of the Buddha’s message of compassion. 1620 CE: During the reign of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, a pair of itinerant fortune-seekers endeavor to swindle the patrician elite, only to find themselves utterly disillusioned. 1857 CE: Mirza Sahib, a wandering minstrel, traverses the realms of human deception even as a rebellion against the British Raj is advancing across India. 2084 CE: A scholar revisits the known history of the cataclysmic events that led to world-domination by ruthless international water conglomerates. Across epochs and civilizations, these are intensely personal journeys that investigate the legitimacy of religion and authority, and chronicle the ascent of dissent.