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Love Minus Sex


Ajit Baral

THE ROYAL GHOSTS
By Samrat Upadhyay
Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2006, pp. 207, Rs. 295.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 3 March 2007

Samrat Upadhyay, a Nepali author who went to the US at the age of 21 and who has been living there ever since, first studying and then teaching creative writing at various universities, hit big on the international literary scene with his debut Arresting God in Kathmandu, in 2001. It was probably the first time that a mature, well crafted work of fiction had come out of Nepal. Nepali writing in English started with Laxmi Prasad Devkota’s attempt at English writing in the 1950s. Bal Krishna Sama, Mani Dixit, Kesar Lal, Abhi Subedi, Padma Prasad Devkota, Tek B. Karki, Peter J. Karthak, Prakash A. Raj, D.B. Gurung followed suit. But the bulk of Nepalese’ attempts at English writing was limited to poetry and very little prose fiction was written in Nepal. Mani Dixit was the only one who consistently kept churning out fictions, even if they were of indifferent quality. In 2000, D.B. Gurung published a novel. The novel started promisingly enough but petered out midway through. So, when the prestigious American publisher Houghton and Mifflin brought out Arresting God in Kathmandu in 2001, which the publisher touted as the first novel by a Nepali to be published in the West, it received rave reviews internationally, and won the Whiting Award. Back home, surprisingly, it was not that well received—drawing uncalled for criticism for its depiction of sex in middle-class Nepali lives. At the centre of almost all of the stories in Arresting God in Kathmandu are love and lust, and most of the characters in his stories find themselves captive to earthy desires. In The ‘God Skopkeeper’, which was selected for the Best American Short Stories, 1999, Pramod, an accountant, after being thrown out of his office, finds solace in the arms of a groundnut seller. In Deepak Mishra’s ‘Secretary’, Deepak cannot come to terms with his wife and is drawn to his secretary for comfort. In ‘The Limping Bride’, the father-in-law cannot help himself having sex with his newly married daughter-in-law, who reminds him of his wife. Similarly, In the ‘Great Man’s House’, the mistress of the great man, who is rendered invalid, has a series of relationships with those who she says are her business partners. Even in the stories where sex does not figure, the theme revolves around man-woman relationships. The Royal Ghosts, Upadhyay’s third book and second collection of short stories, which contains ...


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