Forget Kathmandu combines passion with insight to describe a complex and troubled country. Written in clear, vigorous prose, it is one of the most important books on not just Nepal but also contemporary South Asia.
In June 2001, the king of Nepal and almost his entire family were massacred. Unrest, simmering over the previous decade, boiled over, and pushed the nation into free fall. In 2005, the dead king’s brother reinstated monarchy, crushing any hope that parliamentary democracy would flourish in Nepal. A period fraught with uncertainty and intense turmoil ensued: the Maoists waged a bloody People’s War; the monarchy mounted a bloodier counter-insurgency effort; political parties bickered and fought endlessly; and the common man bore the brunt of it all.
Wide-ranging in scope—the book spans the beginning of the monarchy, through the early democratic movements, to the present—Forget Kathmandu is many things: history, memoir, reportage, travelogue, analysis. But, above all, it is an unflinching, clear-sighted attempt to make sense of the ‘bad politics’ that plagued—and continues to plague—the country. It remains as worryingly relevant to present-day Nepal as it was when first published in 2005.
[Forget Kathmandu is] reminiscent of the late great W. G. Sebald’s non-fiction as an engaging detective story.