Alumna Dickie Edits the West’s First English-Language Anthology of Contemporary Tibetan Fiction

August 24, 2017

Recent Writing Program alumna Tenzin Dickie '14 is the editor and translator of a forthcoming collection of Tibetan fiction entitled Old Demons, New Deities (OR Books, Dec.). The book is said to be the first-ever English-language anthology of contemporary Tibetan fiction available in the West.

Dickie, who studied translation while at Columbia, within the Writing Program’s LTAC (Literary Translation at Columbia) concentration, is herself of Tibetan heritage; she was raised in a refugee camp in Northern India after her parents followed the Dalai Lama into exile from Tibet.

Old Demons, New Deities features 21 stories by 16 writers from Tibet and the Tibetan diaspora. The authors—among them Pema Bhum, Tsering Dondrup, and Jamyang Norbu—write in Tibetan, English, and Chinese. Their stories showcase the often surrealist nature of contemporary Tibetan fiction. “Through these sometimes absurd, sometimes strange, and always moving stories, the English-reading audience gets an authentic look at the lives of ordinary, secular, modern Tibetans navigating the space between tradition and modernity, occupation and exile, the personal and the national,” the publisher’s description reads.

Gary Shteyngart, a professor in the Writing Program, called the book a “long-overdue and brilliantly edited volume on the Tibetan experience.” Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp, a professor of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at Harvard, added, “Tenzin Dickie is to be congratulated on having gathered here these twenty-one short stories by arguably the best Tibetan authors writing today.”

Before coming to Columbia, Dickie studied English at Harvard, where she was the features editor of the Harvard South Asian Journal. She has also published essays and poems. One poem of hers, “Yuthok Lane,” reflects the juxtaposition of despair and hope in the anthology’s title. “We are unbeautiful here; / our stay in the plains has rendered us so. / But whispers now carry endearments, / and we will not have it any other way.”