Books you read should leave you wanting moreLiterary critic and journalist Bhushita Vasistha says books are her close companions.
Bhushita Vasistha is a literary historian and journalist. She is also a publishing editor at Nepalaya Publication. As a journalist with over a decade of experience, she has worked for The Kathmandu Post and Republica daily. Vasistha is the host of ‘Nepalaya Book Talk’ series on YouTube, where she interviews contemporary writers of Nepal. Some writers featured in the series include Kumar Nagarkoti, Sujeev Shakya, Sudha Sharma, and Sarada Gautam. Currently, she is pursuing her degree in creative writing in the United States at San José State University, California, under a Fulbright Scholarship. The Post’s Aashika Gautam virtually interviewed Vasistha to talk about her love for books.
How did you get into reading?
While growing up, my house was always filled with books. As a kid, I especially enjoyed reading children’s magazines like ‘Champak’, and ‘Muna’. I never imagined that I would end up an avid reader. Because books allow you to delve into an imaginative world, it was only inevitable that books would become my close companions.
When I read ‘East of Eden’ by John Steinbeck, one of its characters called Cathie made a great impression on me. She was young, bold and free. But when I saw it as a movie, I was very disappointed because it was nothing like the book. Since then, I have preferred reading books to watching movies.
What genres of books do you enjoy reading?
I started reading at a really small age. As I said before, children’s literary magazines were some of my first reads. Eventually, I started reading all kinds of books. From plays to children's books to poems, I read them all. ‘Mahabharat’ is one book I think should be read by all thinkers.
I won't say reading books are important. If you love reading books then for you it can be termed as important. But in the end, one should do what makes them happy. If a book makes me think deeply, then that is my genre of book.
What book are you reading right now? What is it about?
I am currently reading a book called ‘The Queer Art of Failure’ by Jack Halberstam. This book was introduced to me by my poetry professor at San José State University. It is written from a neo-Marxist point of view and teaches us about very eccentric ways of becoming successful in life.
The book proposes discourses and analysis on capitalism and, at the same time, also teaches that failure can be resistance and critique under the pressures of capitalism. In the book, Jack Halberstam proposes the concept of ‘low theory’ as a mode of thinking and writing. Low theory urges people to not take themselves too seriously and to embrace a willingness to fail. It is a very interesting book.
Do you have any suggestions for people who want to start reading books?
If someone wants to start reading, then I think it will be great if you start with something light. I say pursue your pleasure. Ask yourself, ‘What genre of books do you love reading?’ It might be romance, thriller, mystery or any other genre. The books you read should deal with subjects that you’re interested in.
Starting with a good book may also guide you into becoming a more frequent reader. Books like ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry are simple but very enjoyable. This book deals with an adventure of a little prince and is a fun read. The book that you chose to read should leave you feeling like you want to read more and more.
Who are your favourite authors?
I have many favourite authors. Laxmi Prasad Devkota will forever be an inspiration to me. All the books by Devkota have deeply touched me. I grew up reading his writings. I also enjoy reading Lekhnath Paudyal, Nawaraj Parajuli, Buddhisagar, Somnath Sigdel and Kumar Nagarkoti. These are some of my favourite Nepali authors.
I also like books by Oscar Wilde, Arundhati Roy, Kalidas, Izumi Shikibu, Milan Kundera, Hermann Hesse, Erich Fromm, Michel Foucault, Walt Whitman, Mahmoud Darwish, Anton Chekhov and Anais Nin. All these writers have inspired me one way or the other.
In the global sphere, where do you think Nepali literature stands today?
Nepal is yet to be recognised as a global platform for storytelling. There are many interesting stories within Nepali literature that must be shown to the rest of the world. We have very little global audience. Despite having a lot of brilliant literary works, the bridge between the local literary circle to the global one was never built. It is high time to introduce Nepali literature to an international audience. Nepali literature should be pushed forward, and more international collaborations should be accepted. Student exchange programmes can be very useful in understanding the literature world.
What is one book that has significantly influenced your life?
The book that changed my life is ‘1984’ by George Orwell. I read the book in 2018 while staying at an Osho Ashram in Nepal. ‘1984’ is a dystopic science fiction novel that deals with the idea of surveillance. Moreover, loyalty and obedience are also some interesting themes discussed in the book. I was touched by this particular line from the book: ‘Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.’ The book has the power to make you question yourself.
Any plans to write a book in the coming future?
I have been working as a journalist for a long period of time. I have not seriously thought about writing a book, but it’s definitely something that I would like to do in the future. I have published some short stories, articles and journals here and there. My short stories titled ‘Lopamudra’s Wedding’, and ‘Madhesh Through Magic Mirror: History and the Quest for ‘Self’’ have been published in Mithila Review. I definitely want to write more.
Bhushita Vasistha's book recommendations
The Art of Loving
Author: Erich Fromm
Publisher: Harper Collins
Author: George Orwell
Publisher: Secker & Warburg
The Master and Margarita
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
Publisher: YMCA Press
Author: Anton Chekhov
A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
Author: Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
The Little Prince
Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Publisher: Reynal & Hitchcock