by Thomas Bell
Kathmandu is the greatest city of the Himalaya; a place where unique cultural practices that died out in India a thousand years ago have survived. It is a carnival of sexual license and hypocrisy, a jewel of world art, a hotbed of communist revolution, a paradigm of failed democracy, a case study in bungled Western intervention, and an environmental catastrophe.
Kathmandu’s rapid modernisation is an extreme version of what is happening in many traditional societies with the destabilising spirits of consumer aspiration, individuality, egalitarianism, communism and democracy. Erudite, entertaining and accessible, this is the fascinating chronicle of a unique city.
Thomas Bell studied at Oxford and the Courtauld Institute of Art before moving to Kathmandu to cover the civil war in Nepal for the Daily Telegraph and The Economist.
Publication Date: August 2017
‘A wonderful literary journey through the streets and history of Kathmandu’
— Sir Ranulph Fiennes
‘Thomas Bell’s Kathmandu is to be welcomed as a chance to look beyond such tragedies and learn something of Nepal’s complex religious and social history — and the equally complex machinations of politics in the capital city that has dominated it for centuries.’
— Financial Times
‘There is fine, unflinching journalism in this book. But there is affection, even love too. It is a powerful, intoxicating mixture. It produces an unsettling, admirable, compelling and deeply unusual narrative that matches the city in both its allure and individuality.’
‘With extraordinary candour and courage he blazes a trail through the backstreets of the city to the hidden places most of us choose not to see, listening to conversations we prefer not to hear when visiting a country as complicated as Nepal.’
— Literary Review
‘Bell never loses sight of one key fact: Kathmandu is irrepressibly vibrant, eternally fascinating and still one of the great artefacts of Asian civilisation.’