Between Two Eras: Arresting God in Kathmandu and the Search for a Modern Nepalese Identity
Dr. Pablo Pescheira
In the collection of short stories Arresting God in Kathmandu by Nepalese-American author Samrat Upadhyay, Upadhyay describes the lives of middle class Nepalese people living in Kathmandu during the late 20th century. In my research, I make the case that modern Nepal, specifically the capital, Kathmandu, occupies a unique position between two eras: that of modernity and that of tradition. Upadhyay comments on this position in his stories, which capture the essence of the modern Nepalese experience through the desires and fears of his characters. Furthermore, I propose that Upadhyay offers the allegorical message, through his stories, that modern Nepalese people must embrace both their past and their future so as to maintain their rich heritage while still continuing to progress into the modern world. My paper begins with a brief history of Nepal’s entrance into modernity, where I explore the origins of Nepal’s unique state of “between-ness.” In this segment I utilize Mark Lichty’s book on the growth of consumer culture in Kathmandu, Suitably Modern to make my arguments and compare the culture observed in Lichty’s research to that explored in Arresting God. In the second half of my paper, I move into a literary analysis of many stories in Arresting God, specifically an allegorical interpretation of Upadhyay’s work and the commentary it makes on the modern Nepalese identity. In my presentation, I will compare the nature of modernization and generational conflict in Nepal with several other Asian countries in an effort to distinguish what makes Nepal’s story unique.
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