The earliest book printed in the Nepali language is actually a translation in Darjeeling of the Bible in 1821. Later, the Ramayan and Mahabharat were printed with pictures of deities and depictions of key scenes, and they brought the reader’s imagination to life.
Some early prints of Bhanubhakta Acharya’s Ramayan did not have line breaks and space between words because these were part of the oral tradition, and were meant to be read aloud.
Diverse typography, illustrations and design elements have always been used in Nepali literature to tell a story, and make books more engaging to readers. Nagarkoti’s use of hand-written comments by the editors on the margins of text in Kalpa-Grantha therefore follows a long tradition of innovation, coupled with the advances in publishing.
Such ‘conceptual stories’ are not trying to confuse us with gimmicks, but get readers to visualise the two sides of writing – the author’s and the editor’s – and imagine a collaborative process without being diegetic. Sindhiya Shrestha, a Nagarkoti fan, describes the process as trying to connect with the author. “It’s a touch of newness,” she says.
As Nagarkoti pointed out in an interview, stories are not limited to the written word. “Reading is like dreaming, fuelled by imagination, and comes in many different forms,” he said. “The book is a composition, and reading is an experience.”