Narayan Wagle: A Novelist is Born with Palpasa Café

By Dinesh Wagle on July 16th, 2005 in Wagle Street Journal

Narayan Wagle, Nepal’s top journalist, brings out his first fictional creation: Palpasa Cafe Pic by Bikas Rauniar. Other pics by Wagle.

UWB has been authorised to sell the book outside Nepal. Support UWB by buying the book. (To buy the book, click on the Buy Now button on the right bar) Also see: Palpasa Cafe Hits Bookstores and Narayan Wagle Wins Madan Puraskar

All we have known about the man called Narayan Wagle is that he is one of the finest journalists in Nepal who has traveled almost every nook and cranny of the country. And how can we forget that groundbreaking Kalapani story and that nation shocking reporting over food crisis in Humla. Well, the list goes on. After all, in the last 13 years, from a reporter to, currently, the editor of the same paper, Kantipur, Narayan Wagle, or Agle (the tall man) as his contemporaries call him, has set an illustrious career that every reporter, myself included, in this country aspires to follow. Oh, that unforgettable ‘Coffee Guff’, a popular weekly column, that introduced Narayan Wagle as a reporter with literary possibility to thousands of readers of ‘Kosilee’, Kantipur’s Saturday supplement. From that perspective, he is the ‘Coffee-guffee Wagle’.

What a coincidence, ‘Coffee-gaffee Wagle’ is the first word of Palpasa Cafe, Narayan Wagle’s first novel that was made available to a limited audience this morning. With this 245-page semi fiction creation, Nepali literature has found a new novelist in Narayan Wagle. The book will be formally launched by the end of next month, according to Kiran Krishna Shrestha, chief of Nepalaya, the publisher of the book.

“Many correspondents first report the event in their newspapers,” said the novelist this morning before reading out the first chapter of Palpasa Cafe to an invited group of 150 people. “And later they write a book or two including their experiences of that horrific time because they can’t include all the perspective and events of the war in their newspaper coverage.” That’s what Wagle has tried to do with the novel Palpasa Cafe. In the book, the writer said, he has presented the realities, his feelings and experiences about the contemporary Nepali society while doing journalism in the semi-fictionalized form. In a way, the novel is the extended version of his ‘fictionalized fact’-based column ‘Coffee Guff’.

In a 13 year-long career, according to a newspaper story, Wagle has taken strides not many can match. Cafe, Coffee, ‘Guff’ and Reporting are the real stuff that, it seems, fascinate Wagle. When was he first introduced with the coffee or cafe culture? And how the name Coffee Guff came to him for the weekly column.

UWB asked him and found the answer. His association with coffee and cafe began after he chose the profession of reporting. Look the relation between those things. “After the restoration of democracy in Nepal,” he told UWB in an interview (whose full version will be available tomorrow on this site), “would be more accurate.” About the name ‘Coffee Guff’, Wagle said, “I came up with the name while drinking coffee at a roof-top restaurant in Thamel 13 years ago.” He explained earlier about the column’s nature to Nepali Times, a Kathmandu weekly. “It’s a fiction of facts, a platform to write about all the interesting people I meet but canâ??t fit into the limitations of daily reporting.â??

“The writer has tried to introduce a new style of writing,” commented C K Lal, a columnist, about Palpasa Cafe. He also explained the timing and setting of the story that the book deals with. “The book deals with the first few years of 21st century. It is the story of the mountains of Nepal. Drishya, the protagonist, is trying to understand himself. He is trying to understand other people’s feelings. He is trying to understand the inner mind of the one who has gone for the revolution. He is trying to understand the city where he is living, the village where he was born, the country and the horrors of the time.”

Drishya is on journey all the time. Sometime he travels physically and sometime mentally. “The characters of Drishya are similar to that of the writer,” Lal said in the program organized for the soft launch of the book. Palpasa is the girl through which Drishya tries to understand himself. In the book, according to Lal, Narayan Wagle, the writer, asks questions related to the purpose of his existence. Where am I? What am I looking for? What is the purpose of my life?

On the opinion front, Lal said, the book is in the quest of judicial peace in the society that is currently going through the armed conflict. “The book lends its support to the groups that are lobbying for non-violent and peaceful means of solution,” Lal revealed.

“There is lot of sympathy toward characters,” Lal observed, “but no empathy. That is what is lacking in the book. That may be because of the [physical] height of the author. If you are tall, you can see things that other’s find hard to see. But sometime it is difficult to see the base.”

From the feminist perspective, the book is male dominated, Lal felt. From the ‘dalit’s’ perspective, the book has shown its affection to that underprivileged group but failed to include the feelings of the members of that community.

“The images are amazing.” Lal commented. “At times you need to close down your eyes and feel that you are there on the spot. You need to repeat a few words and sentences.”

Oh..ya, we saw Narayan Wagle in a different avatar two years ago when he ‘starred’ in a documentary called ‘Bheda Ko Oon Jastoâ?¦in search of a song‘. In the documentary, directed by Kiran Krishna Shrestha, that won special mention prize in Film South Asia 2003, Wagle leads a team of musicians, including Amrit Gurung of Nepathya, in remote trails of Langtang looking for a local tune that he heard a decade ago. For the first time in the history of documentary film, BKOJ was screened nationwide, including Jaya Nepal Theatre in Kathmandu, with packed audiences.

A girl waits for Narayan Wagle’s signature in her copy of Palpasa Cafe.

Well, the question of the hour is, will Wagle repeat the same success with Palpasa Cafe that he has proved with BKOJ, ‘Coffee Guff’ and other reporting in his journalistic career? Narayan Wagle, along with his well-wishers and envious reporters like myself are eagerly waiting for the result. The book face a real test next month when it will be available publicly. By then, I would finish reading the book, printed in a qualitative paper, that I bought and get autographed by the writer today. Suddenly, I am feeling myself privileged.

Notice 1. UWB will post an interview with Wagle tomorrow.
Notice 2. UWB will do an Amazon for Palpasa Cafe from next month.

Related Link:
1.Narayan Wagle’s latest ‘Coffee Guff’

Related UWB Blogs (on Narayan Wagle)

1. Nepal Press Gag: Kantipur Editor Wagle Interrogated
2. Nepal Press Gag: Kantipur Editor Wagle Summoned
3. And The Editor Proudly Replied: You Don’t Have Authority To
Interrogate Me
4. Nepal Press Freedom: Rapids In The Journey
5. I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Freedom
6. King Wants to See Editors

7 Responses to “Narayan Wagle: A Novelist Is Born With Palpasa Café”

mp Says:
July 17th, 2005 at 12:35 am

I was wondering what happened to ‘coffee-guff’ as I haven’t see it for a while on Saturdays. Now it seems we’ll be able to get a pretty good dose of guffs in the form of this book. Can’t wait to get a copy for myself. And yes, you should feel privileged Dinesh-ji…I can only envy you now, and may be for the whole of next month

chinta Says:
July 17th, 2005 at 5:09 am

Besides all these hoopla, I seriously hope that Narayan put serious effort in creating this book.

It reminds me an old episode. When ‘Ghatana Ra Bichar’ just came in Radio Nepal, it was a big hit, and its sanchalak Purusottam Dahal a sensation. He had a clear voice, the program also started with a very popular tune, and the news show purported to be neutral.(It later degenerated into a congressi show, unfortunately). It seemed like Purusottam was a real talent.

It was then that he wrote a story in Madhupark. Madhupark also advertised it with importance. The story was such a flop, such a without content that I think Purusottam didn’t attempt to write any fiction further.

The lesson is there. Just because you can print whatever you write doesn’t mean its immortality is assured. Narayan Wagle is a great journalist, but literature and journalism are not same. He seems so busy, I don’t know how much time he has been contributing for literature.I ,for one, am going to have high expectation from this book.

While I am a great admirer of Narayan Wagle’s journalism, (and he is handsome too),I will read the book critically. I hope there won’t be any telltale sign of hurried finish, any blemishes, and any lack of creativity, and he fulfills the promise that he has shown so far as a journalist/writer.

Blogbahini Says:
July 17th, 2005 at 11:49 am

phew! he’s sizzling!! those high cheek bones and that killer look. and he’s a journalist, now a novelist with sentiments. hows that for a date? kidding

i grew up reading his coffee guff, it is very entertaining. and like Chinta said, i hope he can bring out that excitement, and most important of all, that curiosity that keeps the readers going- if it is like one of those bland novels of manjushree thapa (no offense but i find her writing style very monotonous and draggy), ppl like me with short attention span will get bored out easily. but narayan wagle seems very creative, yet will keep my fingers crossed. no expectation as of yet, until i read the book.

Umesh Says:
July 17th, 2005 at 5:08 pm

It’s a long wait for me to read this novel. Today I just see its coverage on this blogge dinesh article. After finishing Martin Chautari retreat, wagle promised me to publish a novel within few weeks. But now, it is already more than 100 weeks that he finished it since his promised. Certainly, it must be the Nepali Harry Porter that is my wel-wishing.

blogsati Says:
July 30th, 2005 at 2:27 am

Can someone tell us about National People’s United Party?

bidur marasini Says:
August 12th, 2005 at 12:58 am

this is the best nobel i had ever read! actually i dont have habit of reading novels but i was given this novel to read by one of my brother! it have created desire of reading ! i am very much thankful to wagle sir . i am very much impressed by his style of writing in which he expressed his view as thecommon nepali! spoke the language and desire of common nepali! as the drisya! same desire that every nepali at present condition want, we need PEACE we dont want money we dont want job we dont wan’t foreign aid we just want peace the word of 5 letter’s ! that also complete peace not for just kathmandu or any district headquaters we want peace in every corner of nepal! every river, spring and in the smile of little children!

Manish Says:
August 12th, 2005 at 2:24 pm

A really nice novel to read. Written from heart by Mr. coffee guffee Wagle.
But as the plot I found it a bit short to read.

I enjoied it a lot.

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6 thoughts on “Narayan Wagle: A Novelist is Born with Palpasa Café

  1. i really appreciate your work though nepali literature was born long time ago but its born for me right after your novel. I tried to go through many famous novels of nepali literature but couldn’t go to tha half also. But its true I completed your novel just in 1 day in full devotion. It shows how much you made nepali youths intrested in nepali literature. THANKS.. YOU ARE THERE FOR NEPALI LITERATURE

  2. Narayan Wagle has rose up with his amazin creation PALPASA CAFE n i need not to mention this!!
    m really impressed frm this book. I’ve read it in Nepali version and is heart touching book. It’s the best Nepali novel i’ve ever read n will read. I’ve read it 6 times upto now. N i’ll keep on inceasing the times i’ve read it. When ever I read this book, i’ll lost in it’s story. This book has everything we need: emotions, humour etc. Each n every part is amazing here!!
    Thnx 4 ur support in nepali literature n i we all will b waiting for your next amazing creation….ur next book…….

  3. I am proud to have been a colleague of Narayan Wagle when we went about the epoch-making Kantipur exercise more than 16 years ago.

    Narayan has evolved into a world-class journalist with a host of achievements to his credit. His columns are awaited with great interest. His novel Palpasa Cafe has received unprecedented success.

    He is undoubedtly a national icon. Extremely popular in the media fraternity, Narayan is a team man.

    I wish him all the very best, always!

    Shyam Goenka

  4. hello sir.
    i have read your novel palpasa cafe thrice in this month. Palapasa cafe is one of the excellent novel in nepal. It is one of the best novel for after maxim gorkhi’s AAMA. i’m reading in grade 10.But my interest is in poltics,history & litracy. my father is also poet so i use to write some poem . Due to this reason,my study is not well.I read your novel during exam period so i failed my exam.plz don’t think that i am blaming you iam just sharing my feeling to you.So sir keep on writing good novel.

  5. Narayan wagle is brighter star in nepalese litracy.
    His heart touching novel palpasa cafe brought earthquake in neapalese litracy.It’s language is excellent & starting & ending is better than other novel. It is proved as KOSHE DHUNGA in nepalese litracy. i like it because it is based on truth event (maiost-gov war).writer has not left any KASOOR to make story better & extraordinary.
    We all want better novel from you like as palpasa cafe in future. Keep on writing such good novel.
    with love

  6. Dear Narayanji,

    At the outset please accept my heartiest congratulations for your brilliant series of academic work. You are a Gem unparalleled Narayanji. May you succeed in all that you endeavor, ever..

    I must also say that you have made “Nagrik” one of the best vernacular newspapers in Asia – be it the content or the aesthetics. It is, I believe, the smartest newspaper!

    All the best…

    Shyam Goenka

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