Main story: At a time when literature in Bhutan is flooded with the country’s folklore, urban legends and myths, a handful of authors have been trying to break away from the practise of publishing mostly about the country’s rich oral traditions. Instead they are focusing on contemporary literary works.
Bhutan is situated in the middle of two giant countries that are known for their rich contemporary literary works brought out by some of the most prominent writers the world has ever known. It’s time Bhutanese brought out a literary culture of their own, say these writers.
On August 21, three Bhutanese authors launched their books in the market. Chador Wangmo released her new book titled Kyetse, while Major Lingi Jamtsho released his second book titled Gyalo, and Rinzin Rinzin also released his second book titled Depa Dondeypa and His Relatives.
This is Chador Wangmo’s 10th book. She has written nine children’s books including two in the national language and her debut novel in English titled La Ama was launched last year.
In her new book, she tackles philosophical questions such as what makes us different, what propels us to live our lives, and the concept of being a Bhutanese and Buddhist interchanging in modern times, Chador Wangmo said.
“Through this book, the protagonist Sonam Dema, a 30 year old reflects how times and perspective of life has changed in the country from three decades ago. It is a book to reminiscence and ponder upon, something to go back to and smile. There is a bit for everyone,” Chador Wangmo said.
Today we see a number of Bhutanese writers writing novels or compiling a collection of short stories, which is a positive sign for the growth of literary culture in the country, Chador Wangmo added. “With this growth of literature in the English language, we shouldn’t forget our national language as well. There should be equal focus on the growth of literarure in both the languages.”
Major Lingi Jamtsho has been juggling his life between soldiering and writing since 2012 and after learning how to maneuverer his way through the internet. For Major Lingi Jamtsho, the internet was something very new to him and a concept difficult to grasp.
Soon Major Lingi Jamtsho was writing and blogging, a dream that he wanted to pursue for a long time. Impressed by his writings, his friends encouraged him to publish his book, which he released in the same year titled The Night Hunters.
“Through this tale of a soldier in Gyalo, I hope to show readers the human psyche of a soldier, the hardships they face coupled with dark humour and the sacrifices they have to make in line of their duty,” Major Lingi Jamtsho said. “With this publication, I hope to inspire new and old writers. The story is fictitious but one will get a glimpse of the life a soldier has to lead and hopefully a new perspective as well.”
While Rinzin Rinzin, who is publishing his second book after a break of 12 years said the number of Bhutanese writers have been increasing steadily.
“Despite the small market and requirement of a lot of funds while bringing out a book such as during editing, proof reading, layout design, printing and transportation cost, we are still bringing out the books for the joy of writing. Plus I have a lot of free time now as well,” Rinzin Rinzin, a former Member of Parliament said. “I hope writers won’t stop writing just because of these set backs but instead come together to overcome such challenges.”
To solve the marketing and funding issues, an author, blogger and a member of Writers Association of Bhutan (WAB), Ngawang Phuntsho, said they are looking at crowd publishing as an option for the writers and members of WAB.
Crowd publishing is a practice of publishing books by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people or in this case a seed fund by the Rotary Club in Thimphu, Ngawang Phuntsho explained.
“The seed fund will be kept as a fixed deposit amount, which can be taken as a loan without any collateral by an aspiring writer to publish three to four books in a year. We are also planning to distribute book shelves in the 20 dzongkhags to make books by Bhutanese authors easily available in the country,” Ngawang Phuntsho said.
WAB is an organisation that aims to provide a platform where aspiring Bhutanese writers can share their work. Soon, we plan to register WAB as a non-profit organisation, which will promote aspiring and budding Bhutanese writers to showcase their writing talents, Ngawang Phuntsho said.
Publishing a book in Bhutan is the easiest way to become poor. If a writer dares to publish their second book then one should respect them because they have invested a lot to pursue their passion. Everybody wants money from your book, Passang Tshering had once written in his blog called PaSsu Diary.
“Through the crowd publishing project, we can not only publish more books written by Bhutanese authors but also sustain it in the long run. Bhutan is an untold story. Books are national treasures and there must be a national will to build our treasure,” Passang Tshering said.
However, with the advent of the internet and numerous social media sites, for the past year, Bhutanese have produced more written content than the last century, Passang Tshering said.
“Every body is a story teller or a blogger today but it’s high time that we started writing something that made sense. Although being a blogger is hardly a career in Bhutan, we can still go on blogging but there is a need for credibility as a blogger as well. We can’t write about our personal story anymore,” he said. “We can be honest without being rude, angry or disrespectful. We can make social media safe or unsafe. Blogging is easy but making a difference is what we must strive for and it rings the same for writers and authors as well.”