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Himalayan Voices

Himalayan Voices: An Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature

TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY Michael James Hutt
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pp943
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    Himalayan Voices
    Book Description:

    While the natural splendor of Nepal has been celebrated in many books, very little of the substantial body of Nepali literature has appeared in English translation.Himalayan Voicesprovides admirers of Nepal and lovers of literature with their first glimpse of the vibrant literary scene in Nepal today. An introduction to the two most developed genres of modern Nepali literature-poetry and the short story-this work profiles eleven of Nepal's most distinguished poets and offers translations of more than eighty poems written from 1916 to 1986. Twenty of the most interesting and best-known examples of the Nepali short story are translated into English for the first time by Michael Hutt. All provide vivid descriptions of life in twentieth-century Nepal. Although the days when Nepali poets were regularly jailed for their writings have passed, until 1990 the strictures of various laws governing public security and partisan political activity still required writers and publishers to exercise a certain caution. In spite of these conditions, poetry in Nepal remained the most vital and innovative genre, in which sentiments and opinions on contemporary social and political issues were frequently expressed. While the Nepali short story adapted its present form only during the early 1930s, it has rapidly developed a surprisingly high degree of sophistication. These stories offer insights into the workings of Nepali society: into caste, agrarian relations, social change, the status of women, and so on. Such insights are more immediate than those offered by scholarly works and are conveyed by implication and assumption rather than analysis and exposition. This book should appeal not only to admirers of Nepal, but to all readers with an interest in non-Western literatures.Himalayan Voicesestablishes for the first time the existence of a sophisticated literary tradition in Nepal and the eastern Himalaya.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91026-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-10)

    Nepal is a Hindu kingdom, approximately equal in size to England with Wales, that lies along a 500-mile stretch of the eastern Himalaya between India and Tibet. The most striking feature of the country is its spectacular landscape, and the region’s dramatic topography has been a crucial factor in its historical and cultural development since the most ancient times. From a strip of fertile lowland known as the Tarāī in the south, Nepal rises in range after range of hills to the snow-covered crest of the main Himalayan range. Nepal’s location between two great cultures and its previous isolation from...

  7. PART ONE THE POETS OF NEPAL

    • Nepali Poetry
      (pp. 13-21)

      Poetry is the richest genre of twentieth-century Nepali literature. Although the short story has developed strongly, the drama holds its ground in the face of fierce competition from the cinema, and the novel is increasingly popular, almost every Nepali writer composes poetry. Since the appearance ofShāradā, Nepali poetry has become diverse and sophisticated. The poets I have selected for inclusion represent different stages and strands of this development, and I have attempted to present them in an order that reflects the chronology of literary change. The direction that this process of evolution has taken should be clear from the...

    • Lekhnāth Pauḍyāl (1885-1966)
      (pp. 22-30)

      Lekhnāth Pauḍyāl was the founding father of twentieth-century Nepali poetry, but his most important contribution was to the enrichment and refinement of its language rather than to its philosophical breadth. His poems possessed a formal dignity that had been lacking in most earlier works in Nepali; many of them conformed in their outlook with the philosophy of orthodox Vedānta, although others were essentially original in their tone and inspiration. The best of Lekhnāth’s poems adhered to the old-fashioned conventions of Sanskrit poetics (kāvya) but also hinted at a more spontaneous and emotional spirit. Although often regarded as the first modern...

    • Bālkrishna Sama (1903-1981)
      (pp. 31-39)

      Lekhnāth Pauḍyāl, Bālkrishna Sama, and Lakshmīprasād Devkoṭā were the three most important Nepali writers of the first half of this century, and their influence is still felt today. Lekhnath strove for classical precision in traditional poetic genres; Devkoṭā’s effusive and emotional works provoked a redefinition of the art of poetic composition in Nepali. In contrast to both of these, Bālkrishna Sama was essentially an intellectual whose personal values and knowledge of world culture brought austerity and eclecticism to his work. He was also regarded highly for his efforts to simplify and colloquialize the language of Nepali verse.

      Sama was born...

    • Lakshmīprasād Devkoṭā (1909-1959)
      (pp. 40-56)

      When a truly great poet appears during an important phase in the development of a particular literature, the fortunes of that literature are changed forever. All poets who follow are bound to the traditions that their great predecessor has established, even if it is only in the sense that these become the conventions against which they rebel, the norms from which they make their departures. The contributions made to the development of Nepali poetry by Bhānubhakta, Bhaṭṭa, Lekhnāth, and Sama have been fundamental, yet Devkoṭā stands head and shoulders above all of these. An American scholar of comparative literature has...

    • Siddhicharaṇ Shreshṭha (b. 1912)
      (pp. 57-65)

      Siddhicharaṇ Shreshṭha, who was born in Okhalḍhungā in eastern Nepal in 1912, comes from a prosperous landowning Newār family. He has lived most of his life in Kathmandu but has responsibilities for an estate in the Tarāī. Siddhicharaṇ is a member of the influential first generation of modern Nepali poets who grew up under the autocratic Rāṇā government, and his poetry reflects the turbulent period through which he has lived. At various times, he has worked as editor of the important literary journalShāradāand of Nepal’s daily newspaper, theGorkhāpatra. He was granted membership of the Royal Nepal Academy...

    • Kedār Mān “Vyathit” (b. 1914)
      (pp. 66-72)

      Kedār Mān “Vyathit”¹ is one of Nepali literature’s grand old men. A close contemporary of Devkoṭā, Sama, Rimāl, and many other influential Nepali poets, Vyathit has made the greatest contribution of all his peers to the development of Nepal’s literary institutions during a long career of more than a half century.

      Vyathit was born in 1914 to a Newār family of Bānsbārī in the Sindhupālchok district to the east of the Kathmandu Valley. He found his first gainful employment as an accounts clerk in the household of the Rāṇā prime minister Juddha Sharnsher in 1930. By 1940, however, Vyathit had...

    • Gopālprasād Rimāl (1918-1973)
      (pp. 73-81)

      Gopālprasād Rimāl was born in Kathmandu in 1918. He is remembered as the first “revolutionary” Nepali poet and the first to reject the use of meter. He was one of the group of influential writers, including Bijay Malla, Siddhicharaṇ Shreshṭa, and Govind Bahādur Goṭhāle, who produced and contributed toShāradā, the journal that played a most crucial role in the development of Nepali literature during the late Rāṇā period. Rimāl was the most overtly political of all Nepali poets at a time when most writers were addressing social and political issues in their work. Indeed, he was too controversial for...

    • Mohan Koirālā (b. 1926)
      (pp. 82-98)

      As one of Nepali literature’s most respected and enduring poets, Koirālā has been writing for more than forty years, but his poetry continues to evolve and change, adopting new styles and addressing new themes. He has wielded considerable influence over poets contemporary with him and is revered by younger writers. Yet it is extremely difficult to identify him with any particular school of modern Nepali literature, be it romanticism, dimensionalism, or the “contemporary” movement. Although Koirālā has made his own important contribution to each of these and has been influenced by them in turn, Subedī’s comment remains true: “Koirālā is...

    • Bairāgī Kāinlā (b. 1939)
      (pp. 99-110)

      In May 1963, an unusual literary journal appeared on the Darjeeling bookstalls. The publication of a new Nepali periodical was not a remarkable event in itself because short-lived magazines and papers had proliferated since the 1950s. This slim periodical, entitledTesro Āyām(Third Dimension), was of greater significance than most, however, because it represented the first effort by a group of Nepali writers to formulate a coherent theory regarding the nature and function of the literature they produced. Indeed, one might even go so far as to describe this new movement, of whichTesro Āyāmwas the principal organ, as...

    • Pārijāt (b. 1937)
      (pp. 111-118)

      Pārijāt, the Nepali name for a species of jasmine with a special religious significance, is the pen name adopted by Bishṇukumārī Wāibā, a Tāmāng woman now resident in Kathmandu who has been hailed as one of the most innovative Nepali writers of recent years. The themes and philosophical outlook of her poems, novels, and stories are influenced by her Marxist and feminist views and her own personal circumstances: Pārijāt has suffered from a partial paralysis since her youth and has ventured from her home only rarely during the past twenty years. She is unmarried and childless, a status that is...

    • Bhūpi Sherchan (1936-1989)
      (pp. 119-131)

      Bhūpi Sherchan, who died in 1989, was probably the most popular and widely read Nepali poet of the previous twenty years. The reasons for his popularity are easily identified: his poems are written in simple Nepali; they address issues crucial to all Nepalis, not just to the educated elite; and they are distinctive for their humor and anger.

      Bhūpendramān Sherchand was born in 1936 into a wealthy Thākālī family of Tukuche, a settlement on the banks of the Kālī Gaṇḍakī River in the remote district of Mustāng. The Thākālī are a distinct ethnic group in Nepal, and their cultural orientation...

    • Bānīrā Giri (b. 1946)
      (pp. 132-140)

      Born in the town of Kurseong, near Darjeeling in the Himalayan foot-hills of West Bengal, Bānīrā Giri is one of the very few Nepali women writers to have established any reputation outside the kingdom. She moved to Kathmandu with her parents when still a young girl, and most of her writing therefore refers to the environment and society of her adopted home, rather than to her birthplace. The poem “Kathmandu” (Kāthmāṇḍū), for instance, expresses a mixture of affection and contempt for the city:

      Kathmandu makes my poor, dear son

      cry out in his dreams every night . . .

      I...

    • New Trends in Nepali Poetry
      (pp. 141-162)

      This chapter presents some Nepali poetry that reflects the predominant trends of the past twenty years or so. I have resisted attaching the labelcontemporaryto this poetry, partly because it is difficult to decide a specific date from which contemporary literature should be deemed to have commenced and partly because all literature is by its very nature contemporary when it is written. Qualities such as “modernity,” “contemporaneity,” and so on can be assessed only subjectively, and assessments change with the passage of time. Of course, this fact has not prevented most Nepali critics from debating ceaselessly about what is,...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. 163-170)
  8. PART TWO SELECTED SHORT STORIES

    • The Short Story in Nepali
      (pp. 173-188)

      Nepali literature is of enormous value to anyone who is interested in the culture and society of twentieth-century Nepal. Nor should it be forgotten that the world that Nepali literature describes is not confined to Nepal alone: at least 2 million Nepalis live in India. A recent volume of “Indian” Nepali stories contained works by authors from Darjeeling, Sikkirn, Assam, Nagaland, and various other regions of Nepal’s huge southern neighbor (Bhāratīya Nepālī Kathā 1982). The following selections are dominated by stories from Nepal, but Indian Nepali literature has not been wholly ignored and is represented by the Darjeeling writers Shivkumār...

    • Guruprasād Mainālī (1900-1971)
      (pp. 189-196)

      Mainālī was one of the first generation of writers to develop the modern short story in Nepali. Little detailed biographical information on him is available, but it is known that he was born in Kānpur village, Kabre Palanchok district, and spent most of his life in government service. Some sources suggest that he was a high court judge. Mainālī left his birthplace for a village near Nuwākoṭ when young and spent his last years in Khairhanī, near Chitwan. In the interim, he occupied a large house in the Thāmel quarter of Kathmandu.

      Mainālī’s first stories appeared inShāradābetween 1935...

    • Bishweshwar Prasād Koirālā (1915-1982)
      (pp. 197-205)

      Better known in Nepal as “B. P.,” the leader of the Nepali Congress Party that ousted the Rāṇās, Koirālā became Nepal’s first elected prime minister in 1959. Before this, however, he had already become quite well known for his writing, which he began while studying law in Darjeeling during the 1930s.

      Koirālā’s first story, “Chandrabadan” (A Face Like the Moon), appeared inShāradāin 1935, and three further stories were included in the seminalKathā-Kusumanthology in 1938. The most common theme of his stories and novels (of which Koirālā published four) was the relationship between men and women, but...

    • Bhavānī Bhikshu (1914-1981)
      (pp. 206-223)

      Bhikshu was born at Taulīhavā village in the Kapilvastu district of the Tarāī, but he spent much of his life in Kathmandu. He made his first appearance in Nepali literature with an essay on criticism, originally written in Hindi, that was translated into Nepali and published inShāradāin 1936. His first story, “Mankind” (Mānav), was published two years later, and he soon established a reputation as a poet. Bhikshu editedShāradāfor several years after 1940, when the former editor, the poet Siddhicharaṇ Shreshṭha, was jailed for his political opinions, and Bhikshu worked for the Royal Nepal Academy after...

    • Shivkumār Rāī (b. 1916)
      (pp. 224-230)

      Rāī was born at Rināk in Sikkim but made his home at Kurseong in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. He studied for a while at Gyantse in Tibet before gaining his B.A. from Calcutta University in 1941. Rāī’s career was primarily political: he was one of the founding members of the Gorkhā League, an organization that represented Nepalis resident in India, and the first Nepali to hold a ministerial position in the government of West Bengal. Later, he became a producer of Nepali programs for All India Radio.

      Rāī’s first story appeared inShāradāin 1944. His writings are...

    • Daulat Bikram Bishṭha (b. 1926)
      (pp. 231-235)

      Bishṭha was born in the eastern district of Bhojpur and is one of Nepal’s few truly accomplished novelists. Six novels by Bishṭha have been published, and several have earned him literary prizes. His stories are extremely varied and include psychological portraits, portrayals of oppression, and simple romances. Bishṭha’s stories are collected inPradarshinī(Exhibition, 1966),Gālāko Lālī(The Blush of a Face, 1968),Chāyā(Shadow, 1974),Ghāukā Satra Chakkā(The Seventeen Wheels of a Wound, 1978).

      Gangī goes on watching. It is midday, and some young lads from the Āndhī Kholā are on their way down to Gorakhpur to enlist...

    • Bijay Malla (b. 1925)
      (pp. 236-243)

      Bijay Malla is the son of Riddhibahādur Malla, the first editor ofShāradā, and the younger brother of Govind Bahādur Goṭhālé. Bijay Malla was educated at. Banāras Hindu University and at Trichandra College in Kathmaridu. Both Goṭhālé and Bijay Malla were strongly influenced by their childhood in the literary household whereShāradāwas produced, as well as by Bhavānī Bhikshu, who was the journal’s third editor. Malla spent two years in jail for his ariti-Rāṇā political activities during the late 1940s (hence the second story translated here) and was until 1990 the secretary of the Royal Nepal Academy.

      Malla began...

    • Ramesh Bikal (b. 1932)
      (pp. 244-252)

      Bikal, whose real name is Rameshvar Prasād Chālisé, was born near Gokarṇa in the Kathmandu Valley, passed a B.Ed, in 1960, and has worked in education for much of his life. His earlier stories express his socialist beliefs and antiestablishment instincts, for which he was imprisoned on three occasions between 1949 and 1952. His analyses of rural life are especially progressive, and Bikal’s success in describing and empathizing with the lives of the common people of his country is without parallel in Nepali. Stories such as “A Splendid Buffalo,” “The Song of New Road” (Nayā Saḍakko Gīt), “Footpath Ministers,” and...

    • Shankar Lāmichhāné (1928-1975)
      (pp. 253-259)

      Lāmichhāné was born in Kathmandu but lived with an uncle in Banāras until he was eleven. After receiving some basic education at Trichandra College in the capital, he took his first job at the age of twenty-two and worked for a number of governmental and cultural institutions in Kathmandu. In his later years he became the manager of a handicrafts store. Lāmichhāné was an admirer of modern American fiction and frequently mixed with foreign visitors to Nepal. His stories are heavy with symbolism, often lacking a conventional plot and more closely resembling essays, but his prose is rich, fluent, and...

    • Indra Bahādur Rāī (b. 1928)
      (pp. 260-265)

      Rāī is one of the most original and influential Nepali writers to have appeared in recent years. His earliest stories, collected inBipanā Katipaya(So Many Waking Moments, 1960), were written in a naturalistic style. The second collection—Kathāsthā(The Faith of Stories)—showed a dramatic change of approach and philosophy, as Rāī formulated the views on literature that became the basis of theTesro Āyāmmovement.Kathāsthāis divided into two sections: “Kathā” (Stories) and “Āsthā” (Faith), in which Rāī propounded his dimensionalist philosophy, beginning: “Let us write totality; let us live totality.”

      These stories were written in a...

    • Poshaṇ Pāṇḍé (b. 1932)
      (pp. 266-270)

      A surprise ending and a carefully constructed plot are the characteristic features of Pāṇḍé’s stories. Many relate minor incidents from daily life or adopt everyday items as symbols of conflict, jealousy, or anger. Although “A Sweater for Brother-in-law” (Bhinājyūko Sveṭar) is generally recognized as his greatest story, it has a great deal in common with other, equally subtle tales such as “Krishna Dās’s Wall Clock” (Krishnadāsko Bhittā-Ghaḍī), “Fingers” (Auṃlā), and “Rādheshyām’s Bicycle” (Rādheshyāmko Sāikal). The popularity of Pāṇḍé’s stories is evident from the recent publication of a fourth edition of his first collection. Pāṇḍé’s stories are published in three volumes:...

    • Tāriṇī Prasād Koirālā (1922-1974)
      (pp. 271-277)

      Born in India and educated at Banāras and Calcutta, Koirālā was the author of a novel entitledSnakebite(Sarpadaṃsha, 1968), a startlingly Freudian tale of child psychology. Not a prolific writer, Koirālā published a few stories inShāradābetween 1939 and 1942, and the rest appeared after 1950. “It Depends upon Your Point of View” is still a very popular story. Koirālā’s stories can be found in the collectionRāto Sveṭar(Red Sweater, 1981).

      Professor Niranjan got up later that day than he had ever done before. The red morning sun had already begun to fade. As soon as he...

    • Premā Shāh
      (pp. 278-283)

      Premā Shāh first came to the attention of Nepali readers with the publication of “A Husband,” which probably surpassed the many other stories on the subject of widowhood. A second influential story is “The Yellow Rose” (Pahenlo Gulāph), the diary of a woman who is dying from tuberculosis and observing her husband from her hospital bed. Premā Shāh is also a noted poet. Premā Shāh’s stories are collected inPahenlo Gulāph(Yellow Rose, 1966) andVishayāntara(Digressions, 1971).

      Nirmalā, who had just finished mourning for her late husband, came home for her younger sister’s wedding. She was soon involved in...

    • Parashu Pradhān (b. 1943)
      (pp. 284-289)

      Parashu Pradhān was born in Bhojpur district and gained an M.A. in Nepali literature and politics. He began to write short stories in 1962 and has also published two novels. Pradhān’s main themes are social contradictions and human relations, and he is admired for the poetic and symbolistic quality of his prose. Recently, he has begun to include foreigners, particularly Americans, in his stories, but he has been accused of trying to depict a society of which he has little knowledge. Pradhān remains a significant and original Nepali writer, however, and is perhaps somewhat underrated by his peers. Pradhān’s stories...

    • Dhruba Chandra Gautam (b. 1944)
      (pp. 290-297)

      Gautam is known chiefly for the live highly accomplished novels he has published since 1969, but he has also played an important role in the development of the short story in Nepali. A prolific writer with at least sixty stories to his credit, Gautam deals almost exclusively with contemporary social issues and has developed a unique narrative style. Gautam’s stories are collected inAndhyāro Dipmā(On a Dark Island, 1978) andGautamkā Kehī Pratinidhi Kathāharū(Some of Gautam’s Representative Stories, 1987).

      The boss of our squad had a habit that caused us great tribulation. While talking, make a decision, arriving...

    • Manu Brājākī (b. 1942)
      (pp. 298-303)

      Brājākī’s first published story appeared in a Janakpur magazine in 1962, but he is still regarded as a writer whose work reflects contemporary trends. Brājākī has published two collections to date:Avamūlyan(Devaluation, 1981) andĀkāshko Phal(Fruits of the Sky, 1986).

      Today he saw that the ugly iron Aligarh padlock² was still hanging on the outside of the lavatory door. Its paint and polish had all washed away. He stared at the locked lavatory, deep in thought. Someone had chalked a picture on its outer wall of a betel leaf pierced by an arrow. It seemed incongruous to him;...

    • Kishor Pahāḍī (b. 1956)
      (pp. 304-310)

      Pahāḍī is a “new” writer whose first story was published in 1971. Pahāḍī’s stories are collected inBānchnu ra Bānchekāharū(To Live and the Living, 1980),Ghar-Khaṇḍahar(Ruins of Houses, 1980), andVishudāī(Vishudai [a woman’s name], 1988).

      Devayānī. Do you like that name? I liked it, too, when I heard it first. In fact, it was because of her name that I first employed Devayānī. After I had taken her on, I changed her name to “Kānchī”: servants’ names are always changed once they are employed.

      “What jobs can you do?” I’d asked her.

      “I can do whatever Bajyai...

  9. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 311-316)
  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 317-324)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 325-333)