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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 64 | volume XII | January-February, 2009



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 64January-February, 2009

“Arresting God in Kathmandu”, by Samrat Upadhyay

Houghton Mifflin, 2001; 191 pages

p. 1
Tamara Straus

In recent years, writers from the Indian subcontinent have been credited with producing the best literary fiction. Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, V.S. Naipaul – these writers are the latest heirs of the richness of Victorian literature and the inventiveness of postmodern storytelling. And, as Indians, they use English not just as a beloved tongue. For them, the language is also a metaphor for a world beset by cultural fragmentation that runs East to West and South to North and back again.
    Now along comes Samrat Upadhyay. Upadhyay was born and raised in Kathmandu. He came to the United States at 21. His first story collection, “Arresting God in Kathmandu,” is the first work in English by a Nepali author. It is startlingly good. Upadhyay has mastered the short fictional genre with such humanity and apparent ease that he reminds one of Chekhov – though a Buddhist Chekhov who writes about love not with dark Russian fatalism but with a sense of the cyclical nature of life and its passions.
    Upadhyay's stories usually begin with a compelling conceit. “The trouble began for Deepak Misra when he kissed his unattractive secretary in the office. “ This is the opening of a tale about a businessman doubly flummoxed by a failed marriage to a beautiful “Nepal-crazed foreigner” and his utterly efficient, utterly ugly Nepali secretary. The lines “ 'Get him married,' Rudra said. 'Once he has a wife, he'll come to his senses' “ launch a bruising love triangle between a limping bride, her alcoholic husband and his doting, lust- ridden father. “I stayed because I could not bear the thought of abandoning a great man like my master” sets the tone for a story of an elderly spiritual leader whose love for a haughty young seductress leads to his fall from grace.
    Though set in one of the more remote parts of the world and filled with characters who pray to the god Ganesh, Upadhyay's stories seem familiar. In “The Good Shopkeeper” he may describe an affair between Pramod, a henpecked husband who recently lost his middle-class job, and a plump servant girl from a village, but his subject is the escapism of love. In “This World,” Upadhyay's theme is arranged marriages, but his heroine is Kanti, a native of Kathmandu who after studying economics in New York comes home to her tradition- minded mother to discover, like so many moderns, that she is

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