The Kathmandu Bookshop as a Literary-Historical Event: Natibajra Bajracharya’s “Saphūdhukū”

Please join us Tuesday, March 28th at The Place of Many Trees (Room 130), Liu Institute for Global Issues (6476 NW Marine Dr) for our second Annual Lecture Series featuring Professor Christoph Emmrich.

To help with catering and to abide with current regulations, please register here:

What is literature if we conceive of it as happening not on desks, in publishing houses, libraries, auditoriums, or private reading spaces, but in or as a bookshop? How is literature different, if one thinks about it from a very specific place and if that place is a bookshop? What does the convergence of displayed printed and bound copies of texts, the salesperson’s personality, financial transactions, poetics, and dust tell us about the literatures these places help to produce? How are the precariousness of the business, the volatility of its clients, the instability of the location, the fragility of the printed material, and the mortality of the shopkeeper part of a hitherto maybe too little thought-about transactional, evanescent, yet momentarily powerful aspect of literature?

This talk explores a Himalayan literature’s location from the perspective of a multi-generational family bookshop (“Saphūdhukū”) for Newar language publications in downtown Kathmandu, run from within an old Buddhist monastic shrine, clandestinely under the Rana and Shah regimes, openly since the democratization of the country, serving as a meeting place for priests, poets, scholars, publishers, and activists, and promoting Marxism, Buddhism, avant-garde literature, and Newar language nationalism alike. The reminiscences of the shop’s late owner, Natibajra Bajracharya, who passed away in early 2019, reflections on life and business by members of his family, critical voices of prominent figures who owe their profile in Newar public life to their participation in Natibajra’s transactions, and, last but not least, the corpus of texts that have circulated through and emerged from this site shall help reflect on the literary event that is the bookshop.


Christoph Emmrich (Ph.D. University of Heidelberg, 2004) is Associate Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto. He engages with fields as diverse as Nepalese and Burmese Buddhism, Sanskrit, Pali, Newar, Burmese and Mon literature, and Tamil Jainism. He works with ritual specialists, girl children, and young women among the Newars in the Kathmandu Valley (Nepal) and in Yangon, Mandalay, and Mawlamyine (Burma) studying their involvement in Buddhist and Hindu practices related to marriage, coming-of-age, gender, childhood, and the writing of ritual. He has worked on canonical Theravāda and Śvetāmbara Jain doctrines of time, as well as on the history of Jain literature and religious institutions in North and South Arcot, Tamil Nadu. In his work, he addresses questions of resemblance and resistance, transfer and translation, mimesis and memory, institution and event. His latest book Writing Writes for Newar Girls: Marriage and Menarche in Kathmandu Valley Ritual Manuals is forthcoming with Brill. Currently, he is leading a team, located at the University of Toronto, the University of Virginia, and in Kathmandu, that is compiling the Newar Online Dictionary (NOD), the first academic electronic meta-dictionary of classical and modern Newar.

2 responses to “The Kathmandu Bookshop as a Literary-Historical Event: Natibajra Bajracharya’s “Saphūdhukū””

  1. Aliyah Ali

    Hi there,

    I would like to attend this event as a graduate student of Nepalese descent. However, I would need online accommodation arranged due to my disability.

    Please let me know how my access needs can be accommodated.

    Thank you.

    1. sarashn

      Dear Aliyah,

      Thank you for your inquiry! I’m sorry that we did not view your note until now. Usually correspondence goes to We were not aware that messages could be left here. This particular talk was not recorded, due to the speaker’s request. We hope that you will join other events in the future! What department are you in at UBC?

      Sendning good wishes,
      Sara Shneiderman on behalf of the UBC Himalaya Program Steering Committee

Leave a Reply