Samrat without sex is better than Samrat with sex! (That is of course in what he writes.)
That was my first thought after reading more than half of Samrat Upadhyay’s new story collection, The Royal Ghosts. At that time I was really looking forward reading the title story that was the last piece on the book and it’s really a pity that I put down a good book with a disappointment.
The Royal Ghosts, the story is something that I feel is nothing more than a marketing ploy. The title itself, since it was carried as the title of the book, is more to serve the marketing purpose (huh, since the Royal of Nepal is so on the buzz these days) than the story under it. And it was again, Samrat with sex – the story on homosexuality. I would have probably liked the story if it has been treated differently in a different backdrop.
The other stories however are very good. I felt like I am reading the stories of my neighborhood. I loved the flow of the story and the build-ups (and also Samrat’s ability to pick up simple ideas and putting them into words brilliantly).
I loved the Father Daughter, Wedding Hero, Chintamani’s Women, The Weight of the Gun and the Refugee more than others after finishing the collection in less than 24 hours after it landed in my hand for Rs. 295 (it’s the cover price and you may be lucky as me to receive a little discount if you ask with the bookseller).
Samrat’s earlier story collection Arresting God in Kathmandu was a hit earning him Whiting Award and novel, The Guru of Love, too was a good piece. I didn’t read the first one until I finished the novel which I liked with some reservations despite many of my friends believing it’s not that good. Arresting God in Kathmandu was a bit of disappointment for me after the Guru of Love.
Both his earlier books earned him fame (and defame) as a Nepali writer living in US and writing about Nepali society (and sex) without ever trying to go to the depth. But The Royal Ghosts is a better and I recommend everyone get hold of it to read the stories of neighborhood and some as for me may carry a little story of your own.
Here is my friend Deepak Adhikari’s pre-release piece on The Royal Ghosts.