‘I became a writer by accident’Subin Bhattarai, a renowned writer of contemporary Nepali literature, shares the books he read growing up, how his love for literature made him a writer, and his favourite Nepali authors.
By the time Subin Bhattarai was five, he had already developed a passion for writing and reciting poems. He says that he got into poetry hoping to be featured in a radio programme that allowed young children to recite their poems.
At 40, Bhattarai has several popular novels to his name, including ‘Summer Love’ and ‘Saya’. His fifth novel, Ijoriya, is now out on the market. In this interview with the Post, Bhattarai shares how he got into reading and writing, his favourite authors, and how he ended up as a writer.
Did you grow up in an environment that encouraged reading?
I was about six years old when the Maoist insurgency started gaining traction. Although my parents were never directly linked with the movement, some of my relatives actively participated in it and read revolutionary communist books including Mao Zedong's Red Keep. They would hide the books in our house, and I started reading them. Even though I was too young to read such books and didn’t understand much of them, I read them anyway.
What was the first book you read that left a lasting impression on you?
I don’t know if the book left an impression on me, but one of the first books I read and still remember the story of is ‘Chor’ by Modnath Prasit, who won the Madan Puraskar in 1966. The book was a period fiction in which a young male character gets alleged of being a thief by society. I must have been five when I read it, but this was the first book that made me feel I could write too.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I never really set out to become a writer. I became a writer by accident. As someone who has always loved literature, I knew I had to write at least a book in my lifetime, but I never thought of pursuing writing as a career. In 2011, I self-published my first book, ‘Kathaki Patra’, a collection of short stories. Even though the book didn’t sell many copies, Bimal Acharya, a journalist and a critic, read it and loved it. He recommended the book to FinePrint, a publishing house. A year and a half after I published my first book, I got an offer from FinePrint, and I started working on my first novel ‘Summer Love’. My writing career took off from there.
Which book of yours made you believe you have made it as a writer?
‘Summer Love’ and ‘Saya’, my first and second novels, popularised me as a writer. Even though the critics didn’t like the two novels, they were very popular among young adults. When I released ‘Priya Sufi’ in 2018, critics started appreciating my work.
As a reader, which genres do you especially enjoy reading? Has the preference changed over the years?
I started reading works of BP Koirala from a very young age. During my teens, I started enjoying reading romance novels. In my twenties and thirties, I started reading contemporary Nepali literature. I can read any book except ones with dark themes.
Who are your favourite Nepali authors, and why?
As I mentioned earlier, BP Koirala is one of my all-time favourite authors. I grew up with his books. His way of digging deep into the psychology of his characters is what I liked the most. I also like the works of Dhanush Chandra Gautam, a pioneer in dark humour, and Parijat for the way she explored human emotions through her writings.
Could you name three books that you never tire of recommending?
‘Ghamka Pailaharu’ by Dhanush Chandra Gautam
‘Aagat’ by Bhawani Bhikshu
‘Hitler Ra Yahudi’ by BP Koirala
These three books are very close to my heart. Whenever I go through a difficult phase in life or experience writer’s block, I go back to these books and always leave more inspired.