‘Writing is painful, even as it is joyful’Journalist Bikash Sangraula ventured into literature with the publication of the book Unlikely Storytellers in 2015—a novel about the Maoist insurgency based on hard facts.
Journalist Bikash Sangraula ventured into literature with the publication of the book Unlikely Storytellers in 2015—a novel about the Maoist insurgency based on hard facts. In this conversation with the Post’s Samikshya Bhattarai, Sangraula talks about the importance of fiction, why endurance is one of the most important qualities for writers and his list of must-read books. Excerpts:
Your first book, the novel Unlikely Storytellers, straddles that fine line between fiction and non-fiction. Can you tell us a bit more about the book and the creative process that went behind creating it?
I didn’t have a definite idea about this book being a novel when I first started writing it. I had five long stories in the beginning which I wanted to publish. However, the idea of a story collection with just five stories didn’t sit well with me, so I decided to turn it into a novel so that I could intertwine these five stories. I have always been an avid reader of fiction from a young age and love this genre, so I decided to publish this book as fiction even though it actually reflects the true reality of Nepal during the Maoist insurgency. Also, fiction allows you to play more with stories and expression, so I decided to write a fiction based on reality.
You are a journalist as well as a writer. How have your profession complimented each other?
I am neither a trained journalist nor a writer. I actually studied science and management when I was young but I always loved to read and write. So, when I became a journalist, my good command over the language helped me immensely and still helps me while working on my articles. However, I think my writing has both gained as well as suffered because of my journalism. Being a journalist made it easier for me to travel to many places, gain experience and listen to many stories which
eventually provided me with the material for the book. Most of the places mentioned in my book, like Solukhumbhu, Rolpa and others, are ones I travelled as a journalist. But on the other hand, I lost my flair of literary writing being a journalist. My works lacked the depth of a literary text, so I think being a journalist has helped me to some extent but also changed my writing from literary writing to a more reporting style of writing.
Tell us about the craft of writing novels. What are some qualities all budding novelists or writers should have?
I think one of the most important things for a writer is to have a skeleton of their story in mind beforehand. Writers need to have a tentative plotline in their mind if they want to write a novel. Other than that, a writer should pose a great deal of knowledge about expressions and language, as well as have the patience to delve deep into the characters. Most people criticised my book as too dramatic, fast-paced and lacking in depth, so I think a budding novelist should keep this in mind as well. Also, I think the other important quality of a writer is endurance, as the writing process at times is as painful as it is enjoyable. Young writers should have the courage to go on even when it is very hard to create.
As a fiction lover and an author, why do you think it is important to read the genre?
Firstly, reading fiction is a form of entertainment. I think the joy that one gets from reading a fiction is incomparable. Secondly, reading fiction increases your empathy. You learn to be more perceptive of others and put yourself into someone else’s shoes. It is also therapeutic, as it helps us heal some of the wounds that we carry. Reading about the darkness in someone else’s life allows you to be more accepting of yourself. It also allows the reader to live many lives and experience many things without actually being physically present in the situation.
What are three books that you would recommend as must-reads?
I think reading in general is a must because reading helps people to broaden their mind, be a better human being and elevate themselves. But if I have to recommend a few books that are must read, it would be The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.