Your search keywords:

Archana Thapa: Women authors now are assertively expressing their voice

Archana Thapa: Women authors now are assertively expressing their voice

Archana Thapa is an author, researcher, editor and founder of Akshar Creations, a publishing house based in Kathmandu. She is the author of Kathaputala, a compelling collection of stories. She has edited numerous books including Telling A Tale, Swastitwako Khoj and Smritikathama Satwa. Currently she is writing her first novel. Ken Subedi converses with Thapa on literature, publishing and translation in Nepal.

As an author and publisher, do you find the shift of women’s condition in Nepali literature now compared to a few decades back? In what ways are they similar and different?

Compared to a few decades ago there has been a profound shift in the landscape of women’s writing in Nepali literature. The majority of contemporary women’s writing reflects a departure from traditional regressive norms, challenging orthodox and regressive values that were accepted as natural, not cultural. Through their writings women authors now are assertively expressing their voice and views.

In the narrative crafted by these authors, female protagonists have undergone a remarkable transformation. More protagonists seem independent, visible, articulate and actively taking the role of change makers rather than being confined to the victimhood. Their writing signifies an end to the perpetual wait for a savior and the tendency to attribute their oppression to fate. Furthermore, it is not only just the portrayal of women protagonists that is changing; the very essence of women’s writing is marked by refreshing shifts in writing style, themes, issues and narratives. Such evolution not only brings diversity and depth to diverse stories, but also contributes to a broader and more inclusive literary landscape.

As a publisher yourself, do you agree publishers largely have been less interested in short story collections than novels? Is it because the readers tend to buy novels more than the story collections?

As a publisher, I have noticed a more influx of novel manuscripts compared to short stories. On a personal note, my creative writing journey commenced with longer stories. However, it raises the question of why upcoming writers are more inclined towards the novel genre. Perhaps a more in-depth exploration will uncover the underlying motivations.

However, it is essential to underscore that short story writing remains a vibrant and significant facet of literary expression. An illustrative example is the annual story writing competition organized by 12Khari for the past five years. This competition attracts submission in large numbers from Nepali writers around the world showcasing the enduring popularity and creativity inherent in the short story form. It may seem that novels dominate the Nepali literary landscape, yet the short stories are very important for diverse literary tapestry.

In laws, Nepal identifies non-binary sexualities and genders. Is the number of literary productions and discussions in popular culture coming from/about those sexualities satisfactory?

Nepal has seen increased recognition and visibility of non-binary sexualities and gender. The acceptance and representation of non-binary sexualities and identities in literary productions as well as in popular culture may vary because of the evolving nature of social attitudes and cultural shifts.

The level of satisfaction regarding the representation of non-binary sexualities and genders in literary production and popular culture can be subjective. Considering the dynamic nature of cultural shift there is a growing inclination to portray a more diverse world. However, it is true that not much is written on non-binary sexualities and genders. I would like to mention that one of the stories in Kathaputala is about Trans identity. I am optimistic that in the days to come, there will be a surge in the creation of stories that explore the diverse expressions of sexualities and genders.

Do you think the location where the author publishes matters in terms of the reach and reception?

In an ideal world, a book would organically find its own readership and make its way in the literary arena solely based on its own quality and merit. However, the reality is far from the ideal. Also, unfortunately, publishing is becoming more challenging than ever. In the era completely dominated by multimedia and marketing, publishers are immersed in diverse channels of information, advertisement and literary propaganda to reach readers. To capture readers’ attention, bigger publishers employ various marketing strategies, utilizing all the tricks of the trade to make a huge splash in the competitive book market. 

Publishing books has transformed into an investment and it goes beyond the writer receiving royalties; it involves the collaborative efforts of many others in the book marketing process. Consequently, a publication house having substantial resources can generate significant buzz in the book market using all its resources in terms of reach and reception. However, it is crucial to understand the difference between instant popularity and earning a name as a timeless literary piece. While a publication house with ample resources may use all its marketing strategies to sell the book in large numbers, smaller publication houses face many challenges. Akshar Creations favors the enduring quality of a book that is shaped by its substance and lasting impact. 

In order to globalize the Nepali literary productions, translations have always been emphasized by the literary fraternities of Nepal. Why do you think translations are not happening in numbers as they should have been?

The prospect of Nepali literary translation holds immense significance in the world of literature as it will contribute to fostering a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of Nepali literature in the global literary stage. While some of the Nepali literary works have been translated into English and other languages, that number remains less than satisfactory. Acknowledging the constraints of living in a resources-limited society, it is evident that there is less enthusiasm in the academic arena and insufficient support from the government level. 

As I have only translated poems till the date, I may not be able to pinpoint the exact reasons behind this challenge, however, as I understand, translation endeavor requires increased resources, enhanced infrastructures, proficient translator with a strong command of language and a nuanced understanding of cultural subtleties, needs good investment and also a good channel to take the translated works into the international market.

The translated project, in essence, demands a multi-faceted approach that addresses not only linguistic challenges, better translation skills, but also the structural and market orient aspect of the literary world. I firmly believe that with enhanced resources and more effective strategic support, translated Nepali literature holds the great potential to secure a more prominent and well deserved space on the global literary readership.