Review: Love, Money, Home & Chinese Philosophy (Satis Shroff)

The Power of Feng Shui

Genre: Memoir

Sophie Boswell: The Power of Feng Shui Living Proof. Strategic Book Publishing, NY, 2008,  230 pages, Hardback $ 25,95


The purpose of this book is to give readers evidence of how the ancient Chinese philosophy works, as the author herself is the ‘living proof.’ She’d applied it in her home-setting, relationships and business successfully. It’s a book about change and how to make it happen with you remaining in command. This knowledge is packed in the form of an enchanting love-story after two wrecked marriages, and a third endearing one, full of bliss and passion, thanks to Feng Shui.

Feng Shui? An Asian martial art? No, Feng Shui means ‘wind’ and ‘water’ and is the science of life in harmony with your direct environment. Feng Shui belongs to daily life in China. Wind and water belong to the taoistic knowledge that change is the fundamental principle of the universe. And we humans (and other species) as a part of this universe participate in a dynamic principle and are subject to eternal change. Feng Shui also gives you the opportunity to understand your fellow human being. Which theme belongs to this person? What does he or she have to know or discover? According to Feng Shui, your environ, working place, even your visiting-card reflects your personality. This is more than non-verbal communication. Sofia Boswell uses these ancient Chinese philosophical principles in modern western society and lifestyle with amazing success.

Your inner life begins to influence your outer world in a cheerful, positive way, whereby there’s a reciprocal exchange between the inner and the outer world.

Sophie’s story is topical and begins in Sydney in 1996, she travels through blue Hawaii, Newport Beach, New York and ends in Dubai in 2003. A perfectionist at heart, she doesn’t believe in failure despite setbacks in her business and in her private life. She regards a mistake as a chance to find another way to do and to go about things by using a change in perspective. There’s no room for headlong collisions in life. The gentle power of Feng Shui if often behind her decisions because she has internalised this philosophy.

Sophie’s grandfather was a successful businessman, and she has inherited his business acumen in her genes. Her grandmother, Kathleen Boswell, was a talented portrait painter and musicians, so the grandchild has an artistic streak and plays the piano and even writes lyrics today.

She reveals that the first ten years of her life ‘produced a strong minded individual’ which makes us understand that she didn’t seem to fit in with her peers. She was brought up as a proper English girl with all its connotations. There was ‘pomp and ceremony’ inside her house in far-away Australia but the family didn’t have much money to go with the aristocratic mannerisms. Brisbane wasn’t exactly the Cotswolds and was ‘dry and dusty with poisonous spiders and snakes; flies and mosquitoes came in plagues along with crickets and locusts.’

In addition to demonstrating that Feng Shui works, the narrative is humorous and true.

‘What are the author’s thought?’ you might ask. She does some fast thinking when an annoying man named Prem tells her, after consulting his tatty tarot cards: ‘Your life won’t begin until you’re sixty.’ He says further in his Indian English, ‘Vot you should do it is, is to let go!’ To detach oneself from things that bog us down. He tells her in no uncertain terms that she’ll change her lifestyle, travel and meet people she never dreamed of. All under a new flag.

But why would she want to change anything?

Sophia doesn’t seek psychics. ‘I never sought them out,’ she says. They seem to hook up with her whenever she needed help in life. In 1982 she met a psychic named Margaret Dent, after her first divorce. She had been living in a small rented two-bedroom house with her three little girls. Her husband had been a controlling man. It was a financial fiasco for her. Magaret predicted, ‘I see you sitting in a big house, in lush garden surrounding, near the harbour.’ And it came true. After 1984 she became rich through the use of her own resources in her home-based business and by putting all her energy into it. That one hour with Margaret Dent in Sydney had changed her life. The significance of this story is that women can get along in a men’s world through the understanding of Feng Shui, and is useful for female managers who have to assert themselves in so-called men’s business domains.

It was Elyse, a girl-friend of hers, a spiritual soul with a great knowledge about people and why they did things called her. She advised her to ring Rupert White, a person who could unblock trapped energy and show her which way to go in life. Mr. White was a Feng Shui expert, and the story of change begins here.

The component part of the book contributes to the purpose of the book for Sophie is an open-minded person and she seeks advice from psychics and clairvoyants when her normal logical, western thinking fails to help her in life problems. This is the beginning chapter, which is followed by an introduction to Feng Shui, Grounding, Letting Go, Closure, Hawaii’s  Magnetism, Destiny, An Unbelievable Answer, Taking the Plunge, Popping the Question, Popping the Cork, A Blessing from Heaven, Metamorphosis and Living Beyond the Dream. There are also some poems: The Angels Must Have Sent Him (dedicated to her beloved Zayid), Earthly Angels and seven Hawaiian landscape paintings done by the author. Another poem ‘I’m Watching Over You’ was written, according to Sophie, after Zayid died on December 9, 2009. He communicated via a medium and mutual friend, who then took it down and emailed it to her.

A comparison of the work to others within the same genre: Whereas Sophia Boswell already has three daughters and two divorces behind her, and has mastered her life, environment and business successfully, Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (published in 2006) is in her thirties, settled in a large house with a husband who wants to start a family. However, she doesn’t want any of it. After a bitter divorce and a rebound fling she emerges badly bruised. She goes on a quest to find out what’s missing in her life across Italy, India and Indonesia. I Rome she enjoys the Italian cuisine and handsome Giovanni, her Tandem Exchange Partner, almost Latin-lover, and puts on weight after all that pasta. In India she finds enlightenment, in an ashram frequented by westerners like her, through scrubbing temple floors. Liz even learns to chant the entire 182 Sanskrit verses of the Gurugita, the great, purifying basic hymn of the Hindus. She professes having felt happiness: better, truly than anything which included salty, buttery kisses and even saltier and more buttery potatoes. After that she’s glad to have made the decision to stay alone.

Unlike, Sophie, Elizabeth finds a toothless medicine man who reveals a new path to peace. She’s ready for love again. Filipe, a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship, says he needs towards the end of the story, he needs Bali because of his biz, its proximity to Australia where his kids live. Much like Sayid and Sofie, Liz and Felipe are also survivors of divorce. Felipe needs to be in Brazil often, because that’s where the gemstones are for his biz, and he has his family also there. The quest is over and Elizabeth returns to her family and friends in the USA. Can they build a life together divided between America, Australia, Brazil and Bali? Liz says, ‘Hey—why not?’

In Sophie’s story Zayid, her tall, handsome, Bedouin Arab brings her to life because she’d been in a mental rut. Zayid had humour and for Sophie he was the most interesting man she’d ever met and she had nothing to lose and dreamt of Lawrence of Arabia’s world with her Arabian hero. As a woman in love she notices every nuance. Zayid smells of Verace’s ‘Blue Jeans’ cologne. When he visits her in Hawaii she says, ‘Stars fell on Honolulu this night.’ He, on his part, kept on saying, ‘Life is short,’ which was perhaps a premonition of things to come. Another of his favourite expression is. ‘It takes two hands to clap,’ and he thanks her for inviting him to Hawaii. To Sophie, he’s her soul mate, a wild yet gentle man, and she even seems to know that ‘We were man and wife in another lifetime.’

Whereas Elizabeth Gilbert describes a major catastrophe in the form of a tsunami of staggering destruction in Southeast Asia, in Sophie’s Boswell’s ‘Power of Feng Shui’ she’s in a plane with fire-men from other states who were coming out to help out in the aftermath of 9/11 and the captain gives these brave men a bird’s eye view. Sophie describes thus: ‘In the distance we saw smoke still soaring skyward, highlighted by searchlights. The digging continues non-stop. The Captain asked us all to sing Amazing Grace as he headed for Guardia Airport.’

Sophie’s poem ‘September 11’ still lingers in my mind.

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Creative Writing Critique: Chicken of India Unite! (Satis Shroff)

Review: Aravind Adiga: The White Tiger. Atlantic Books, London, 2008. Man Booker Prize 2008. German version: ‘Der Weisse Tiger’ published by C.H. Beck, 2008.

Aravind Adiga was a correspondent for the newsmag Time and wrote articles for the Financial Times, the Independent and Sunday Times. He was born in Madras in 1974 and is a Mumbai-wallah now. The protagonist of his first novel is Balram Halwai, (I’m a helluva Mumbai-halwa fan, you know) who tells his story in the first person singular. Halwai has a fantastic charisma and shows you how you can climb the Indian mainstream ladder as a philosopher and entrepreneur. An Indian entrepreneur has to be straight and crooked, mocking and believing, sly and sincere, at the same time (sic). Balram’s prerogative is to turn bad news into good news, and the White Tiger, who’s terribly scared of lizards, slits the throat of his boss to attain his goal, and doesn’t even regret his deed.

In the subcontinent, however, Aravind Adiga’s novel has received sceptical critique. Manjula Padmanabhan wrote in ‘Outlook’ that it lacks humour, and the formidable Delhi-based Kushwant Singh 92, who used to write for the Illustrated Weekly of India and is regarded as the doyen of Indian English literature, found it good to read but endlessly depressing.

‘And what’s so depressing?’ you might ask. I found his style refreshing and creative the way he introduced himself to Wen Jiabao. At the beginning of each capital he quotes from a part of his ‘wanted’ poster. The author writes about poverty, corruption, aggression and the brutal struggle for power in the Indian society. A society in which the middle class is reaching economically for the sky, in which Adiga’s biting and scathing criticism sounds out of place, when deshi Indians are dreaming of manned flights to the moon, outer space and mountains of nuclear arsenal against China or any other neighbouring states that might try to flex muscles against Hindustan.

India is sometimes like a Bollywood film, which the poverty-stricken masses enjoy watching, to forget their daily problems for two hours. The rich Indians want to give their gastrointestinal tract a rest and so they go to the cinema between bouts of paan-spitting and farting due to lack of exercise and oily food. They all identify themselves with the protagonists for these hundred and twenty minutes and are transported into another world with location shooting in Switzerland, Schwarzwald, Grand Canyon, the Egyptian Pyramids, sizzling London, fashionable New York and romantic Paris. After twelve songs, emotions taking a roller-coaster ride, the Indians stagger out of the stuffy, sweaty cinemas and are greeted by the blazing and scorching Indian sun, slums, streets spilling with haggard, emaciated humanity, pocket-thieves, real-life goondas, cheating businessmen, money-lenders, snake-girl-destitute-charmers, thugs in white collars and the big question: what shall I and my family eat tonight? Roti, kapada, makan, that is, bread, clothes and a posh house are like a dream to most Indians dwelling in the pavements of Mumbai, or for that matter in Delhi, Bangalore, Mangalore, Mysore, Calcutta (Read Günter Grass’s Zunge Zeigen) and other Indian cities, where they burn rubbish for warmth.

The stomach groans with a sad melody in the loneliness and darkness of a metropolis like Mumbai, a city that never sleeps. As Adiga says, ‘an India of Light, and an India of Darkness in which the black, polluted river Mother Ganga flows.’

Ach, munjo Mumbai! The terrible monsoon, the jam-packed city, Koliwada, Sion, Bandra, Marine Drive, Juhu Beach. I can visualise them all, like I was there. I spent almost every winter during the holidays visiting my uncles, aunts and cousins, the jet-set Shroffs of Bombay. I’m glad that there are people like Aravind Adiga, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai who speak for the millions of under-privileged, downtrodden people and give them a voice through literature. Aravind deserves the Man Booker Prize like no other, because the novel is extraordinary. It doesn’t have the intellectual poise of VS Naipaul or Rushdie’s masala language. It has it’s own Mumbai matter-of-fact speech, a melange of Oxford and NY. And what we get to hear when we take the crowded trains from the suburbs of this vast metropolis, with its mixture of Marathi, Gujerati, Sindhi and scores of other Indian languages is also what Balram is talking about. Adiga was bold enough to present the Other India than what film moghuls and other so-called intellectuals would have us believe.

Balram’s is a strong political voice and mirrors the Indian society which wants to present Bharat in superlatives: superpower, affluent society and mainstream culture, whereas in reality there’s tremendous darkness in the society of the subcontinent. Even though Adiga has lived a life of affluence, studied at Columbia and Oxford universities, he has raised his voice in his book against the nepotism, corruption, in-fighting between communal groups, between the rich and the super-rich, a dynamic process in which the poor, dalits, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Children of God (untouchables), ‘scheduled’ castes and tribes have no outlet, and are to this day mere pawns at the hands of the rich in Hindustan, as India was called before the Brits came to colonise the sub-continent.

Balram, Adiga’s protagonist, shows how to assert oneself in the Indian society, come what may. I hope this book won’t create monsters without character, integrity, ethos, and soulless humans, devoid of values and norms. From what sources are the characters drawn? The story is in the form of a letter written by the protagonist to the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and is drawn from India’s history as told by a school drop-out, chauffeur, entrepreneur, a self-made man with all his charms and flaws, a man who knows his own India, and who presents his views frankly and candidly, sometimes much like P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster. The author’s attitude toward his characters is comical and satirical when it comes to realities of life for India’s poverty stricken underdogs, whether in the form of a rickshaw puller, tea-shop boy or the driver of a rich Indian businessman. His characters are alive and kicking, and it is a delight to go with Balram in this thrilling ride through India’s history, Bangalore, Old and New Delhi, Mumbai and its denizens. The major theme is how to get along in a sprawling country like India, and the author reveals his murderous plan brilliantly through a series of police descriptions of a man named Balram Halwai.

The theme is a beaten path, traditional and familiar, for this is not the first book on Mumbai and Indian society. Other stalwarts like Kuldip Singh, Salman Rushdie, Amitabh Ghosh, VS Naipaul, Anita and Kiran Desai and a host of writers from the Raj have walked along this path, each penning their respective Zeitgeist. In this case, the theme is social, entertaining, escapist in nature, and the reader is like a voyeur in the scenarios created by Balaram. The climax is when the Chinese leader actually comes to Bangalore. So much for Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai. Unlike Kiran Desai (The Inheritance of Loss) Adiga says, “Based on my experience, Indian girls are the best. (Well second best. I tell you, Mr Jiaobao, it’s one of the most thrilling sights you can have as a man in Bangalore, to see the eyes of a pair of Nepali girls flashing out at you from the dark hood of an autorickshaw (sic).

As to the intellectual qualities of the writing, I loved the simplicity and clarity that Adiga has chosen for his novel. He intersperses his text with a lot of dialogue with his characters and increases the readability score, and is dripping with satire and humour, even while describing an earnest emotional matter like the cremation of Balram’s mother, whereby the humour is entirely British—with Indian undertones. The setting is cleverly constructed. In order to have pace and action in the story Adiga sends Balram to the streets of Bangalore as a chauffeur, and suddenly you’re in the middle of a conversation and narration where a wily driver Balram tunes in. He’s learning, ever learning from the smart guys in the back seat, and in the end he’s the smartest guy in Bangalore, evoking an atmosphere of struggle for survival in the jungles of concrete in India. Indeed, blazingly savage, this book. A good buy.


About the Author: Satis Shroff lectures on Creative Writing at the University of Freiburg and is the published author of three books on Im Schatten des Himalaya (book of poems in German), Through Nepalese Eyes (travelgue), Katmandu, Katmandu (poetry and prose anthology by Nepalese authors, edited by Satis Shroff). His lyrical works have been published in literary poetry sites: Slow Trains, International Zeitschrift, World Poetry Society (WPS), New Writing North, Muses Review, The Megaphone, The Megaphone, Pen Himalaya, Interpoetry. Satis Shroff is a member of “Writers of Peace”, poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World Poetry Society (WPS) and The Asian Writer.

Satis Shroff is a poet and writer based in Freiburg (poems, fiction, non-fiction) who also writes on ecological, ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes. He has studied Zoology and Botany in Nepal, Medicine and Social Sciences in Germany and Creative Writing in Freiburg and the United Kingdom. He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. Since literature is one of the most important means of cross-cultural learning, he is dedicated to promoting and creating awareness for Creative Writing and transcultural togetherness in his writings, and in preserving an attitude of Miteinander in this world. He lectures in Basle (Switzerland) and in Germany at the Akademie für medizinische Berufe (University Klinikum Freiburg) and the Zentrum für Schlüsselqualifikationen (University of Freiburg). Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize.

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Review by Satis Shroff, Germany: Getting Along in Life in Tricky Kathmandu

Bhatt, Krishna: City Women and the Ghost Writer, Olympia Publishers, London 2008, 191 pages, EUR 7,99 (ISBN 9781905513444)

Krishna Bhatt, the author, a person who was ‘educated to get a graduate degree in Biology and Chemistry,’came to Kathmandu in 1996 and has seen profound political changes. In this book he seeks to find an ‘explanation for what is happening.’ Life, it seems, to him, is tricky, while political violence has been shocking him episodically. That’s the gist of it: twenty-one short episodes that are revealed to the reader by an author, who’s trademark is honesty, clarity and simplicity—without delving too deep into the subject for the sake of straight narration. What emerges is a melange of tales about life, religion, Nepalese and Indian society packed with humour. A delightful read, a work of fiction and you can jump right into the stories anywhere you like.

Additionally, Bhatt has published ‘Humour and Last Laugh’ in October 2004, a collection of satirical articles published in newspapers in Kathmandu, which is available only in Kathmandu’s bookstores. The author emphasises that he has always written in English and adds, “Reading led me to writing.” He found his London publisher through the internet. Lol!

Did you know that people who are married wear an ‘air of sacrificial glory’ about them in Nepal? The other themes are keeping mistresses in Kathmandu, sending children abroad for education, the woes of psychotherapists in Nepal (no clients). I’ll leave it to you to find out why. Nepal is rich in glaciers and the water ought to be harnessed to produce drinking water and electricity, but in Kathmandu, as in many parts of the republic, there’s a terribly scarcity of water among the poor and wanton wastage among the Gharania—upper class dwellers of Kathmandu. The Kathmanduites fight not only against water scarcity but also a losing battle against ants and roaches. The author explains the many uses of the common condom, especially a sterilised male who uses his vasectomy for the purpose of seduction. However, his tale about the death of his father in “The Harsh Priest and Mourning” remains a poignant and excellent piece of writing, and I could feel with him. It not only describes the Hindu traditions on death and dying but also the emotions experienced by the author.

Like the Oxford educated Pico Ayer who has the ability to describe every ‘shimmy’ that he comes by when he travels, Bhatt too says that Thamel District is all ‘discotheques and massage parlours’ in the story ‘A Meeting of Cultures,’ in which the author meets two former East Germans and one of them thinks ‘people in Germany are lazy.’ Did she mean the Ossies or the Wessies? If that doesn’t get you, I’m sure the many uses of English and vernacular newspapers will certainly do. What’s even amusing is a ritual marriage ceremony of frogs to appease the rain gods. It might be mentioned that in Kathmandu Indra is the God of Rain, the God of the firmament and the personified atmosphere. In the Vedas he stands in the first Rank among the Gods. When you come to think of it, we Hindus are eternally trying to appease the Gods with our daily rituals, special pujas and homs around the sacred Agni (Ignis). Agni is one of the chief deities of the Vedas, and a great number of Sanskrit hymns are addressed to him.

Bhatt uses life and the people around him, and in the media, as his characters and his attitude towards his characters is of a reconciling nature. The characters work sometimes flat for he doesn’t develop them, but the stories he tells are about people you and I could possibly know, and seem very familiar.
Most of the stories are short and quick, good reads in this epoch of computers, laptops,DVDs, SMS, MMS, which is convenient for people with not much time at their disposal. Other themes are: writing, the muse, fellow writers (without naming names, except in the case of V.S. Naipaul), east meet west, abortion, art and pornography, colleagues and former HMG administrators. His opinions are always honest and entertaining in intent, and his tales have more narration than dialogues. Krishna Bhatt is a welcome scribe in the ranks of Kunda Dixit, Samrat Upadhya, Manjushri Thapa and is another new voice from the Himalayas who will make his presence felt in the world of fiction writing. His ‘Irreconcilable Death’ is thought-provoking, a writer who wants to change morality and fails to reconcile with death, like many writers before him. Writers may come and go, but Bhatt wants to leave his impression in his own way and time. Time will certainly tell.
I wish him well.

Review German version by: Satis Shroff, Freiburg

Himalaya. Menschen und Mythen.: Hrsg. von Grünfelder, Alice
Grünfelder, Alice (Hrsg.), Himalaya: Menschen und Mythen, Zürich Unionsverlag 2002, 314 S., EUR 19, 80 (ISBN 3-293-00298-6).

Alice Grünfelder hat Sinologie und Germanistik studiert, lebte zwei Jahre in China und arbeitet gegenwärtig als freie Lektorin und Literaturvermittlerin in Berlin. Dieses Buch ist vergleichbar mit einem Strauss zusammengestellter Blumen aus dem Himalaya, die die Herausgeberin gepflückt hat. Es handelt von den Menschen und deren Problemen im 450 km langen Himalaya Gebirge. Das Buch orientiert sich, an englischen Übersetzungen von der Literatur aus dem Himalaya.

Nepal ist literarisch gut vertreten mit dem Anthropologen Dor Bahadur Bista, dem Bergsteiger Tenzing Norgay, die in Kathmandu lebenden Journalisten Kanak Dixit and Deepak Thapa, dem Fremdenführer Shankar Lamichane, dem Dichter Pallav Ranjan und dem Entwicklungsspezialisten Harka Gurung. Manche Geschichten sind nicht neu für Nepal-Kenner, aber das Buch ist für Leser, die in Deutschland, Österreich, Südtirol und die Schweiz leben, bestimmt. Außer sieben Nepali Autoren gibt es Geschichten von sieben indischen, drei tibetischen, zwei chinesischen und zwei bhutanesischen Autoren.

Die Themen des Buches sind: Die Vorteile und Nachteile der Verwestlichung in Nepal, da Nepal erst 1950 für den Fremden sozusagen geöffnet wurde. Kanak Dixit erzählt dies deutlich in „Welchen Himalaya hätten Sie gern?“. In einer anderen liebenswerten Gesichte erzählt er über die Reise von einem Nepali Frosch namens Bhaktaprasad. K.C. Bhanja, ein umweltbewußter Bergsteiger, erzählt über das empfindliche Erbe—die Himalaya und deren spirituelle Bedeutung. Die „Himalaya-Ballade“ von der chinesischen Autorin Ma Yuan, „Die ewigen Berge“ von dem Han-Chinesen Jin Zhiguo, und der indischer Bergsteiger H. P. S. Ahluwalia in „Höher als Everest“, schließlich Swami Pranavanadas in seinem „Pilgerreise zum Kailash und der See Manasovar“ haben alle die Berge aus verschiedenen Sichten thematisiert. Tenzing Norgay, der erste Nepali, der auf dem Gipfel von Mt. Everest mit dem Neuseeländer Edmund Hillary bestiegen war, erzählt, dass er „ein glücklicher Mensch“ sei. Der Nepali Journalist Deepak Thapa beschreibt den berühmten Sherpa Bergsteiger Ang Rita als einen sozialen Aufsteiger.

Während wir in einer Geschichte von Kunzang Choden (Auf den Spuren des Migoi) erfahren, dass die Bhutanesen, als ein buddhistisches Volk, nicht einmal einen Tier Leid zufügen können, erzählt uns Kanak Dixit von 100 000 Lhotshampas (nepalstämmige Einwohner), die von der bhutanesischen Regierung vertrieben worden sind und jetzt in Flüchtlingslagern in Jhapa leben.

James Hilton hat das Wort Shangri-La für eine Geschichte, in Umlauf gebracht die sich in Tibet abspielte. Genauso ist mit dem Ausdruck „Das Dach der Welt“ die tibetische Plateau gemeint und nicht Nepal oder Bhutan. Die bewegende Geschichte, die der Kunsthändler Shanker Lamechane erzählt, handelt von einem gelähmten Jungen. Sein Karma wird in Dialogform zwischen ein Nepali Reiseleiter und einem überschwenglichen Tourist erzählt. Das hilflose Kind bringt uns dazu, über die Freude in Alltag nachzudenken, was wir meistens nicht tun können, weil wir mit dem Alltag so beschäftigt sind. Während Harka Gurung „Fakten und Fiktionen über den Schneemensch“ zusammenstellt, schildert uns Kunzang Choden, eine Psychologin aus Bhutan, über „Yaks, Yakhirten und der Yeti“. Wir erfahren von einem alten Yakhirt namens Mimi Khandola, wie das freundliche Wesen Migoi, gennant Yeti, von einem Rudel Wildhunden erlegt wurde. In „Nicht einmal ein Leichnam zum Einäschern“ lernen wir von dem tragischen Schicksal eines Mädchens namens Pem Doikar, die von einem Migoi entführt wurde.

Diese Anthologie versucht nicht die Himalaya Literatur als ganzes zu repräsentieren, aber betont bestimmte Themen, die im Alltagsleben der Bergbewohner auftauchen. Die Welt, die die Dichter und Schriftsteller aus dem Himalaya beschreiben und kreieren, ist ganz anders im Vergleich zur westlichen Literatur über die Himalaya Bewohner. Es ist wahr, dass der Trekking-Tourismus, moderne Technologie, die Entwicklungshilfeindustrie, die NGOs, Aids und Globalisation die Himalayas erreicht haben, aber die Gebiete die vom Tourismus unberührt sind, sind immer noch ursprünglich, gebunden an Traditionen, Kultur und Religion.

Auf der Frankfurter Buchmesse gibt es kaum Bücher die von Schriftstellern und Dichtern aus dem Himalaya stammen. Es sind immer die reisenden Touristen, Geologen, Geographen, Biologen, Bergsteiger und Ethnologen, die über Nepal, Tibet, Zanskar, Mustang, Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh und seine Leute, Religion, Kultur und Umwelt schreiben. Die Bewohner des Himalaya sind immer Statisten im eigenen Land gewesen in den Szenarios, die im Himalaya inszeniert worden sind, und die in New York, Paris, München and Sydney veröffentlicht werden. Sie werden durch westliche Augen beschrieben.

Dennoch gab es Generationen von denkenden und schreibenden Nepalis, Inder, Bhutanesen und Tibeter, die Hunderte von Schriftstücken, Zeitschriften und Bücher geschrieben und veröffentlicht haben, in ihren eigenen Sprachen. Allein in Patans Madan Puraskar Bibliothek, die Kamal Mani Dixit, Patan’s Man of Letters, beschreibt als „der Tempel der Nepali Sprache,“ gibt es 15,000 Nepali Bücher und 3500 verschiedene Zeitschriften wovon die westliche Welt noch nie gehört oder gelesen hat.

Der englische Professor Michael Hutt machte einen Anfang. Er übersetzte zeitgenössische Nepali Prosa und Gedichte in „Himalayan Voices“ und „Modern Nepali Literature“. Die erste Fremdsprache wird weiterhin Englisch bleiben, weil die East India Company dort zuerst ankam.

Dieses Buch von Alice Grünfelder erzeugt Sympathie und Verständnis für die nepali, indische, bhutanesische, tibetische, chinesische Psyche, Kultur, Religion. Es beschreibt die Lebensbedingungen und menschlichen Probleme in den dörflichen und städtischen Himalayagebieten und ist eine willkommene Ergänzung zu der langsam wachsenden Sammlung von literarische Übersetzungen aus dem Himalaya, die von den einheimischen Autoren geschrieben worden sind. Ich wünsche Frau Grünfelder Erfolg in Ihre Aufgabe als Vermittlerin zwischen den literarischen Welten von Asien und Europa.

© Review: Satis Shroff, Freiburg
Himalaya. Menschen und Mythen.: Hrsg. von Grünfelder, Alice
English Version by: satisshroff, freiburg
Grünfelder, Alice (Editor), Himalaya: Menschen und Mythen, Zürich Unionsverlag 2002, 314 pages, EURO 19, 80 (ISBN 3-293-00298-6).

Alice Grünfelder has studied Sinology and German literature, lived two years in China and works in the publishing branch in Berlin. This book is comparable to a bouquet of the choicest Himalayan flowers picked by the editor and deals with the trials and tribulations of a cross-section of the people in the 450 km long Abode of the Snows–Himalayas. The book orients, as expected, on the English translations of Himalayan literature. The chances of having Nepali literature translated into foreign languages depends upon the Nepalis themselves, because foreigners mostly loath to learn Nepali. If a translation is published in English the success of the book is used as a yardstick to decide whether it is going to be profitable to bring it out in European or in other languages.

Nepal is conspicuous with contributions by the anthropologist Dor Bahadur Bista, the climber Tenzing Norgay, the Kathmandu-based journalists Kanak Dixit and Deepak Thapa, the tourist-guide Shankar Lamichane, the poet Pallav Ranjan and the development-specialist Harka Gurung. For regular readers of Himal Asia, The Rising Nepal and GEO some of these stories are perhaps not new but this book is aimed at the German speaking readers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In addition to the seven Nepali authors, there are also stories by seven Indian, three Tibetan, two Chinese authors and two Bhutanese authors.

Some of the themes that have been dealt with in this collection are: the pros and cons of westernisation as told by Kanak Dixit in “Which Himalaya would you like?” and an endearing story of a journey through Nepal as a Nepali frog named Bhaktaprasad. K.C. Bhanja, the ecology-conscious climber writes about the spiritual meaning of our fragile heritage—the Himalayas. “The Himalayan Ballads” by the Chinese author Ma Yuan, “The Eternal Mountains” by the Han-Chinese Jin Zhiguo, the Indian climber H. P. S. Ahluwalia in “Higher than Everest” und Swami Pranavanadas in his Pilgrim journey to Kailash and the Manasovar Lake” have presented the mountains from different perspectives. Tenzing Norgay, the first Nepali who reached the top of Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary, says that he was a happy person.

The Nepali journalist Deepak Thapa portrays the famous Sherpa climber Ang Rita as a social “Upwardly Mobile” person. Whereas in Kunzang Choden’s story (In the Tracks of the Migoi) we learn that the Bhutanese, as a Buddhist folk, are not capable of harming even a small animal, in another story Kanak Dixit tells us about the 100 000 Lhotshampas (Bhutanese citizens of Nepali origin) who were thrown out by the Bhutanese government and live in refugee-camps in Jhapa. The curio art-trader Shanker Lamichane’s “The Half Closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Setting Sun” is a poignant tale of a paralysed boy’s karma, related as a dialogue between a Nepali guide and a tourist. The helpless child makes us think in his mute way about the joys in everyday life that we don’t see and feel, because the world is too much with us. Whereas Harka Gurung has gathered facts and fiction“ and tells us about the different aspects of the Snowman, another author who is a psychologist from Bhutan, tells us about yaks, yak-keepers and the Yeti and we come to know through an old yak-keeper named Mimi Khandola, how the friendly creature called the Migoi, alias Yeti, gets chased and killed by a group of wild-dogs. In “Not Even a Corpse to Cremate” we learn about the traumatic shock and tragic fate of a girl named Pem Doikar, who was kidnapped by a Migoi.

This anthology does not profess to represent Himalayan literature as a whole, but lays emphasis on the people and myths centred around the Himalayas. For instance, the Nepali world that the poets and writers describe and create is a different one, compared to the western one. It is true that trekking-tourism, modern technology, the aid-industry, NGOs, aids and globalisation have reached Nepal, Bhutan, India, but the areas not frequented by the trekking and climbing tourists still remain rural, tradition-bound and untouched by modernity.

There are hardly any books written by writers from the Himalayas at the Frankfurter Book Fair. It’s always the travelling tourist, geologist, geographer, biologist, climber and ethnologist who writes about Nepal, Tibet, Zanskar, Mustang, Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh and its people, culture, religion, environment, flora and fauna. The Himalayan people have always been statists in the visit-the-Himalaya-scenarios published in New York, Paris, Munich and Sydney and they are described through western eyes.

But there have been generations of thinking and writing Nepalis, Indians, Bhutanese and Tibetans who have written and published hundreds of books and magazines in their own languages. In Patan’s Madan Puraskar Library alone, which Mr. Kamal Mani Dixit, Patan’s Man of Letters, describes as the “Temple of Nepali language”, there are 15,000 Nepali books and 3500 different magazines and periodicals about which the western world hasn’t heard or read. A start was made by Michael Hutt of the School of Oriental Studies London, in his English translation of contemporary Nepali prose and verse in Himalayan Voices and Modern Nepali Literature. It took him eight years to write his book and he took the trouble to meet most of the Nepali authors in Nepal and Darjeeling. The readers in the western world will know more about Himalayan literature as more and more original literary works are translated from Nepali, Tibetan, Hindi, Bhutanese, Lepcha, Bengali into English, German, French and other languages of the EU. The first foreign language, however, will remain English because the East India Company got there first.

This book compiled by Alice Grünfelder creates sympathy and understanding for the Nepali, Indian, Bhutanese, Tibetan, Chinese psyche, culture, religion, living conditions and human problems in the urban and rural Himalayan environment, and is a welcome addition to the slowly growing translated collection of Himalayan literature penned by writers living in the Himalayas. I wish her well in her function as a mediator between the literary worlds of Asia and Europe.

(c) Satis Shroff, Freiburg.



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