Weaving tales out of realityIn an interview with the Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Greta Rana talks about her writing journey and shares some of her favourite works. Excerpts:
Greta Rana is one of the first English-writing novelists of the country. Her first novel Nothing Greener was published in 1974, which were followed by many others, some of the most noted ones being Hidden Women, The Distant Hills, So Why Not Sleep?, and the English translation of Seto Bagh—The Wake of the White Tiger. In an interview with the Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Rana talks about her writing journey and shares some of her favourite works. Excerpts:
When did you first come to read books?
I was three years old when I learnt to read. My mother was a teacher, so I accompanied her to classes. I would be kept in a class with students who were above five years old. I would try to read things I couldn’t and then I would get angry and scribble all over my book. My mother, who has always been a great support system, then starting teaching me to read during weekends. By three and a half, I could read fluently.
What kind of books did you grow up reading?
I remember reading Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. I also read other books by Alcott over the years. I always related myself to Joe, a tomboy and an outgoing person, and I could easily visualise her persona. I also grew up reading most of Enid Blyton’s books. Her books remind me of JK Rowling, without the wizardry world.
What about poetry? Do you have a favourite poet?
I have a great interest in poetry. I started reading poems voraciously when I was seven or eight years old. I have published many of my poem collections as well. William Shakespeare is my favourite poet. I admire Shakespeare’s work. If only I could match up to his poems and write a sonnet like him! It would be a dream come true.
What is the most ambitious book you have written?
I started writing A Place Beneath the Pipal Tree in the mid 80s. The book is based in the Khumbu region and had a critical chapter on Tibet and China’s revolution. Rupert Murdoch, the publisher of Harper Collins, refused to publish it as he wanted that chapter to be removed. But I was adamant. It did take me a lot of time for my work to get published. Later in 2001, my friend, James Hale, called and asked if it could get translated in German. Now, since the book’s first print in 2001, it has seen its fourth edition printed and has been renamed as The Shadow Of The Holy City.
What other works have you been associated with?
During the mid 80s, I was also helping Diamond Shumsher JB Rana translate the Seto Bagh—The Wake Of The White Tiger. My novel Guest In This Country, which I wrote after I travelled to Afghanistan and Laos, is one other book I am proud of.
The story was based on a fictitious country, Lapalistan. Many people, after reading the book, could identity with my fictional reality. I felt successful as a writer because readers could identify with my book it; it was a successful satire. A friend of mine wanted me to write a book on Jung Bahadur Rana. When I finished my first draft and sent it to him, he didn’t like it much. He then asked me to write a book on women. As I was doing my PhD on women, I went ahead with it. I had extensively researched on the women before 1950s, so in 2012 I came up with a book called Hidden Women.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I believe in writing and promoting literary fiction. Non-fiction depends on the writers and the way it is presented. As for non-fiction books, I outstandingly liked Charles Darwin’s The Beagle. The discovery and theories of evolution was an interesting read. In fiction, I have re-read Victor Hugo’s books many times in French and I read their English translations too.
Do you prefer reading stories on e-book or in the prints?
I prefer reading books on prints. I like the smell of books. Whenever I visit book stores, I buy three to four books at once and I read it around same time.
Have you read any Nepali books? Has any author inspired you so far?
I have read short stories by Daulat Bikram Bista and Maya Thakuri. I have read Diamond Shumsher’s Seto Bagh and Dor Bahadur Bista’s Sautela. Among all of them, my favourite is Maya Thakuri. She has the capability of capturing the soul in her writing.
Do you plan to write any books in future?
My next book is called Rivers. The book is written around those 12 Nepali workers who were assassinated in 2004 in Iraq. I have given a little twist in this book, I have added a 13th person, fictionalising it to expose what the ‘thulo manches’ were doing then.
Any advice to the readers?
Just keep reading.