The guru of words
Touted as the first Nepal-born fiction writer writing in English to be published in the West, Samrat Upadhyay’s works of fiction are liked as much for their simplistic yet vibrant portrayal of Nepali life as for their urbane tone and the shocking frankness with which they examine the world. Born and raised in Kathmandu, Upadhyay entered the United States at the age of 21, going on to become an English professor at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio and eventually being appointed the professor of creative writing as well as Director of Graduate Studies at Indiana University, where he still resides.
Upadhyay’s formal foray into writing began with his first full-fledged short story anthology Arresting God in Kathmandu, a pithy collection of nine stories exploring everything from the human psyche to sexuality and society. First published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 2001, it went on to win the Whiting Writers’ Award. Upadhyay’s second work, a novel titled The Guru of Love was published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 2003, and was honoured as the New York Times Notable Book of the Year 2003. The novel, that dwelt upon the complications faced by a typical Nepali middle-class family after the husband decides to keep his own student as a mistress, shocked some puritans and caused protests too. However, Upadhyay plodded on, buoyed by the encouragement of critics excited at the prospect of Nepali writing being represented at the international arena. The Royal Ghosts, Upadhyay’s third published work and second fiction anthology, was brought out by Houghton Mifflin Company in 2006. Upadhyay kept up with his pace, and his second novel Buddha’s Orphans was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2010. The story weaved through three generations, linking the love story of a youth from the lower-class family with a supposedly higher class one, scandalising both their families and inviting much scandal. While Upadhyay’s works have received as many brickbats as bouquets, it is his consistence, flow of writing, and the global literary world’s acceptance of his creations that has egged him on to this list.