Nepali literary scene has seen quite a number of great books over the years. With so much to choose from, one may get easily confounded. As an avid reader, I know the struggles to choose what to read next, and also the disappointment of reading a wrong book. And surprise, surprise, I realize the joy of reading great evocative books. As such, I have prepared today a list of 11 Nepali Books by the ‘who’s who’ of Nepali literature.
(Not listed in any particular order though)
1. Sirish Ko Phool
As one of the most acclaimed books by a Nepali writer, Sirish Ko Phool by Parijaat follows the life of Suyogbir, an ex-army man who fought against the Japanese soldiers in the World War II. Parijat deftly tells the story of Suyogbir’s life during and after the war along with the consequences of his activities. As Suyogbir deals with horrors from his past, he falls in love with Sakambari. However, this does not end well (I’ll leave it for you to read and find out why). Set in Kathmandu and Japan, this is a tragic tale of love and loss.
2. Palpasa Café
Narayan Wagle’s Madan Puraskar winning Palpasa Café is a gripping tale set during the Maoist Civil War. It portrays a vivid and horrifying description of the insurgency period and its effect on the common people. The horrors of the then civil war feel alive in this novel. The stakes are very real which adds to its authenticity. Furthermore, it is a story of a struggle for love in the midst of chaos.
3. Seto Bagh
Seto Bagh is a historical, biographical fiction that revolves around the life of Jagat Jung Rana, the eldest son of Jung Bahadur Rana. The novel set around the time of Jung Bahadur’s fall from the power is, in a ›core, a love story of Jagat Jung and the princess, the daughter of King Surendra Bikram Shah. Beyond love, however, this is also a story of a struggle for power. As such massacre, bloodshed and betrayal are commonplace. This masterpiece by Diamond Sumsher takes you back in time.
Radha is a metaphysical novel that starts with a real-life situation and delves into the world of fiction. In this novel, Krishna Dharabasi tells the story of Mahabharata from the perspective of Radha, who traditionally just serves as a love interest of Lord Krishna. Retold from a female eye, Radha is a ground-breaking novel whose plot resembles the situation of Nepali women. Dharabasi brings to life the Radha that was, for so long, suppressed and negated by our culture. Here, unlike in the Mahabharat, Radha exists on her own.
5. Jaye Bhundi
A collection of 10 satirical essays including Jaye Bhundi, Mapain, Neta Number Ek Saye Ek, Bramha Ji Ko Prayogshalabata and several others, Jaye Bhundi is one among the Nepali books that transcend time. Its satirical prowess, humor, and style are unrivaled to date. With Bhairav Arya’s unique brand of satire and humor, Jaye Bhundi is one of the greatest books to come out of the Nepali literary scene. Full of ‘laugh out loud’ moments and quotable lines, you will never get enough of the book. Those of you who have read Jaye Bholi and Aalu during your school years know what I am talking about.
6. Muna Madan
Muna Madan is an epic, which describes the life of Madan-a young man who leaves his wife and family behind and goes to Lhasa to earn a living. It depicts his struggles in Lhasa and that of his family back home. Furthermore, the worthlessness of his struggles makes the story even more jarring. It is a tragic story of love and sacrifice. The story, which is as relevant today as it was during its publication, is considered to be the greatest works of Laxmi Prasad Devkota and with that one, among the best Nepali books there are to read.
7. Jeevan Kaada Ki Phool
A winner of the prestigious Madan Puraskar, Jeevaan Kaada Ki Phool is the autobiography of writer Jhamak Kumari Ghimire, who was born with cerebral palsy. The book tells the story of her struggles she faced in life due to her disability and how she overcame it to become a successful figure in Nepali literature. Ghimire, as a child, was doubted by everyone including her family and friends and was subjected to discrimination. She soulfully recounts her childhood struggles and tells a powerful story of struggle and perseverance that will leave you inspired.
Lu follows a young boy named Elaiya, who supposedly dies right at the beginning of the novel. As the story unfolds, the readers are taken through the highs and lows of Elaiya’s life. Through the mischievous Eliya, Nayan Raj Pandey deftly portrays the devastating storms (Lu) faced by the people living around the southern border of Nepal. Both heart wrenching and hilarious, this book highlights the issues of border encroachment, the meddling in the lives of people by Indian police forces and gangsters, issues concerning inter-religious marriages, economic struggles, drought and lu (hot wind). This is an eye-opener in many ways.
9. Seto Dharti
Amar Neupane’s Seto Dharti, the winner of 2012 Madan Puraskar, follows Tara and her struggles. Tara is a simple village girl, who gets married at the young age of seven. She is soon widowed after her husband dies in Benaras during his studies and is bound to live the rest of her life as a widow. Following the death of her husband, Tara returns to her paternal home and tries to erase the painful memories of the past. However, what follows is even more struggles. Set during 1850-1950 AD when child marriage was commonplace in Nepal, this novel portrays the bitter realities of Nepal during that period.
10. Cheena Harayeko Manche
Cheena Harayeko Manche a.k.a. Hari Bansha Aharya is one of the most recognized personalities of Nepal. Popular as one-half of the famed MaHa Jodi, Acharya has contributed a lot in the field of Nepali entertainment industry. In this autobiography, Acharya has skillfully depicted his life as a child, his hardships, his rise to fame and struggles later in life. Full of humor and struggle, Cheena Harayeko Manche gives a valuable insight into one of Nepal’s favorite sons.
11. Karnali Blues
Buddhi Sagar’s Karnali Blues depicts a story of a father’s struggles seen through his son’s eyes. It is a journey of a boy from childhood to adulthood and that of his altering view towards his father. The book takes the readers on an emotional roller coaster as the father-son relation faces the test of time and age. Set in the Karnali region of western Nepal, it portrays the hardships faced by the people of the region.
So, there you have it, my list of favorite Nepali books that I feel everyone should read. Do you agree with my list? How many have you read already?
Submitted by: Sudarshan Rajbhandari
(First published on Kathmandu Tribune)