‘International collaboration is the key in bringing Nepali literature to the external world’: An interview with publisher Bhupendra Khadka of Book Hill Publishing

Thanks for joining me! Today I’ll be speaking to Bhupendra Khadka, CEO of Book Hill, one of the leading publishing houses in Nepal. Bhupendra not only leads a publishing house, he himself is a poet, a national award-winning lyricist and also a popular Radio Jockey at Radio Kantipur, the most popular radio station in Nepal. He has been actively involved in the field of radio for almost one and a half decades. Having written songs for more than 5 dozen movies and also recorded more than 350 songs, he also holds a record in bagging almost all prestigious music awards in Nepal.  

SS: How did Book Hill get established or started?

BK: After co-writing and editing a book on World Cycle Travel with Cyclist and Everest climber Pushkar Shah, we were looking for a publisher. We approached a few publishers at that time and found that all were busy with their own projects. At that point, I had a feeling that we could also try something in this field. In fact, we entered the publishing field without thinking much. Getting into the publishing business was an interesting process initially, but after publishing the book, we came across many challenges. This was only a stepping stone for me as the challenges I encountered made me determined towards building a vibrant publishing house that could cater to the Nepali literary world in a different way.

SS: Tell us about some of the remarkable publications you had and also books published in English.

BK: In the first five years of its establishment, there have been sixty books published which include both fiction and non-fiction. We have published both in Nepali and English Languages. Many of our publications have been nominated for and won prestigious awards.

In terms of publications in English, we have a novel ‘Kathamandruids’ by Peter J. Karthak. Kathmandruids is Karthak’s second novel, following the prestigious ‘Sajha Puraskar,’ an award-winning novel. Another one is ‘Silver Cascades’. A few English publications are already in a pipeline and we are now trying to focus more on bringing our publications out in English.

Silver Cascades – A collection of short stories, Translated by Mahesh Poudel ISBN-10: 9937935105, ISBN-13: 978-9937935104 & Kathmandruids, A novel by Peter J Karthak, ISBN: 978-9937-9101-9-4 are published by Book Hill.

SS: Tell us more about your recent publication ‘Silver Cascades’. 

Silver Cascades anthologizes twenty short stories by Nepali writers, who laid the foundation of the modern short story in Nepali literature. Starting with Guru Prasad Mainali, the pioneer of the genre in Nepali literature, the collection runs up to Maya Thakuri, who is, at present, a living author. These stories showcase different turns and movements, from social realism to psychological realism, surrealism, fantasy, absurdity, feminism and children’s concerns. I believe that the anthology will introduce the best of Nepali short stories to the international readers, and inform them of the nascent worldviews and philosophies that underscore Nepali imaginations.

SS: Tell us about the books that received book prize nominations or awards.

BK: Ramlal Joshi’s story collection book, ‘Aina,’ received the ‘Madan Puraskar’ Award in 2016. Getting this award for ‘Aina’ after two years of Book Hill publication house establishment is a big achievement in itself since ‘Madan Puraskar’ in Nepal is a highly prestigious award. It is almost like a ‘Nobel’ prize for the Nepalese literary world. This book is not yet available in English.

Aina, the Mirror, by Ram Lal Joshi which won the ‘Madan Puraskaar’ award, is a collection of stories. The collection reflects the dark realities of poor people of the remote district of far west Nepal. The book, published by Book Hill, is one of the best-selling books in the country.

Not only this, we have three-to-five publications every year getting into nomination for awards such as Madan Puraskar, Padma Shri, Pahichaan, INLS prize. Our publications ‘Nathia’ and ‘Pathshala’ both got shortlisted for the ‘Madan Puraskar’ award in a single year. This indeed was overwhelming. Last year, ‘Nathia’ won the ‘Pahichaan’ award. Likewise, Tirtha Gurung’s novel ‘Pathshala’ was successful in receiving the ‘International Nepali Literary Society’ Award and ‘Tamu Sahitya’ Prize.

We have also started re-marketing of the books which have won awards in Nepal and have not been well promoted in the past. An example of this includes ‘Pagal Basti’ by Sarubhakta and Jhamak Ghimire’s ‘Jeevan Kanda ki Phool’. These books are not yet available in English. 

SS: What is the situation with translations and translators in the country?

BK: Translation from other languages to the Nepali language is much less while translation from the Nepali language to English is also not as much as we want and need either. Although we do have a few good translators, the book market is small and more work is needed to make this arena more established. We are seeking more translators to come forward and join this sector.

Bhupendra Khadka speaking during the launch of one of the Book Hill publications ‘Docha’.

At the same time, the Nepalese market cannot afford the expense of translation, royalties, and titles and therefore it is necessary to translate quality books from Nepal into the world market in collaboration with the international publishing houses. I hope that international publishers will join us in this venture. We are rich in literature and we need support in bringing this out to the external world. We are trying our best and hope we will be able to bring many high-quality books from Nepal with support from international collaborators and global organizations like you all.  

The interview with Bhupendra Khadka was done via email. 

Bhupendra Khadka twitter handle: @KhadkaBhupendra

Written by Dr Sangita Swechcha

Dr Sangita Swechcha is a Communications Professional, Researcher, and a Fiction writer. She has over 15 years of experience in international communications and media relations. She is a Guest Editor for Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI) and coordinating ‘Nepali Literature month’ – November 2019. She is a novelist and a writer who has written a novel ‘Pakhalieko Siundo‘, a joint collection of stories ‘Asahamatika Pailaharu’ and a collection of short stories ‘Gulafsangako Prem‘ in Nepali.

Forthcoming in English translations in 2020 in e-book formats first: A novel ‘Pakhalieko Siundo’ and a collection of short stories ‘Gulafsangako Prem’, titled in English as ‘The Rose: An Unusual Love Story’ (looking for international publisher/s for publishing print versions of these books). Her twitter handle: SangyShrestha. Email: sangyshrestha@hotmail.com Connect on Facebook.

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