Thomas Bell

‘Bell never loses sight of one key fact: Kathmandu is irrepressibly vibrant, eternally fascinating and still one of the great artefacts of Asian civilisation.’

‘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

‘The sheer breadth of subject matter Thomas Bell covers in his book, and the clear affection with which he writes about the city… are a remarkable tribute to one of the most entrancing and rapidly evolving capitals of the world.’
Times Literary Supplement

‘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



‘A wonderful literary journey through the streets and history of Kathmandu’
Sir Ranulph Fiennes

‘A wonderfully discursive account of the personal discovery of a great city. Looping through centuries and slaloming between journalism and history, memoir, mythology and gossip, Tom Bell has written a portrait of Kathmandu like no other, taking us from Manjushree to the Maoists via witches, colonial Orientalists, LSD cults, spies wars and old Serge Gainsbourg movies. A splendidly eccentric and enjoyable first book.
William Dalrymple

‘A narrative of enchanting and troubling complexity. Tom Bell has thought through the history and contemporary reality of Kathmandu, and has written a great, subtle book, one as shadowed as Kathmandu’s alleys and as brilliant as its midday squares
Teju Cole

‘Kathmandu, like the country of which it is the capital, is much visited but much misunderstood. Few make the effort to look beyond the mountains and stupas, the forests and elephants. In this lucid, clever, thorough and beautifully written book, Tom Bell does this for us, recounting the gripping history of the fascinating city with equal measures of verve and care. Kings, Maoist guerillas, mountaineers, demonstrators, poets, psychopathic princes and politicians all make for a tale as colourful as a local market. A genuine must-read for any visiter to the city, to Nepal, or indeed to the sub-continent.
Jason Burke, The Guardian South Asia correspondent

‘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.’
Herald Scotland

‘…a personal narrative chronicling the Nepali capital in depth…’

‘[a] sprawling history and memoir of Nepal and its fast-growing capital
New York Review of Books

‘A book full of feeling, it provides personality and narrative texture to complement other works on the history and politics of Nepal.
History Today

‘Thomas Bell’s excellent history, Kathmandu, explores a city that sits at a crossroads in politics, history, religion and myth’.’


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.

Find Thomas on Twitter @BellThomasBell

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