David Guterson, who lives in Washington with his wife and children, is the author of the story collection The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind and the novels The Other, Our Lady of the Forest, East of the Mountains, and Snow Falling on Cedars, which won the PEN Faulkner Award. His new novel, Ed King (Knopf), will be published in October.
“Politics” is set among the Moaist strikes that shut down Nepal in 2010 and left thousands of tourists caught in the middle. In Guterson’s story, an American man attempts to help out his ex-wife (“technically she was still his wife because they hadn’t signed divorce papers yet”), a journalist who has been seriously injured in a car crash. As he tries to make his way by foot to her hospital, he confronts the mayhem and poverty around him. “He decided to pretend these child-beggars didn’t exist,” Guterson writes, “that he didn’t hear or see them, but that was even more infuriating, because it embroiled him, now, in self-examination, and in pondering the conclusion he was rapidly coming to — that you couldn’t win in a case like this. That no matter what you did, you were wrong.” The following is an excerpt from “Politics.”