Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of reportage

Manjushree Thapa, Nepal

Novelist, Translator, Journalist * 1968
Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy

“I am one of those people who cannot live without some means of creative expression. Writing gave me the means to engage with a broader society. Every thing I want to write about, at least now, is in Nepal. There is so much that can be done here, if politics would stop self-destructing.”

Manjushree Thapa was born in Nepal and grew up in Canada and the United States. After studying photography at the Rhode Island School of Design she returned to Nepal and began to write for Himal Magazine and also worked in the NGO sector, particularly in environmental development work. She returned to the United States in 1998 on a Fulbright Scholarship to complete a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Her first non-fiction book was Mustang Bhot in Fragments (1992), a travelogue to then restricted areas along the Nepal/Tibet border. In 2001 she published her first novel The Tutor of History and co-edited Secret places: New Writing from Nepal. She has also translated many works of Nepali literature into English. Her essays and reportages have appeared in the New York Times, Nepali Times, Hindustan Times and OpenDemocracy.net as well as other publications in the United States, Nepal, India and Great Britain. Thapa has also worked as a co-ordinator at the Martin Chautari Centre in Kathmandu, an organisation for public advocacy.

Her book Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy (2006) combines history, reportage and travel writing to examine the recent history of Nepal, including the royal massacre in 2001 and the Maoist rebellion. Thapa describes the development of a society whose picturesque beauty hides widespread poverty. She leads the reader through Nepal’s past and present, revealing its tangled politics and Byzantine power structures, and describing her journey to the remote Maoist-held western mountainous region. Forget Kathmandu was published just weeks before the royal coup in Nepal on 1st February 2005 and Thapa was forced to flee the country and to live in exile, mainly in India, from where she wrote extensively on developments in Nepal.

Thapa has won fellowships from the Center for Investigative Journalism in Kathmandu, as well as from Hedgebrook, the Ragdale Foundation and the Espy Foundation in the United States. In 2005 she spent three months at the Centre d'Art Marnay in Camac, France as a UNESCO Aschberg Fellow.

She currently works as a columnist at the Kathmandu Post, and her collection of short stories, Tilled Earth, is due to be published in 2007. She is also working on her second novel.

Thapa lives in Kathmandu


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"Documentary prose ought to transcend the strict boundaries between the formats of literature and journalism. The person of the author, his mentality, his philosophy and his sensitivity must be unified by a good writing style. Documentary work means using reality as the raw material to create a new reality."Svetlana Alexievitch (jury member 2003, 2004 & 2005)