10 books that defined 10 yearsThe past decade has been a reader’s delight in Nepal, as writers continue to innovate and push the envelope.
This past decade saw a deluge of biographies and autobiographies, and a worrying decline in the publication of essays and dramas. The emergence of new and diverse writers, themes and styles was exciting. Poetry seems to have gotten more urgent, radical and performative; while writers are ready to experiment with issues and characters in fiction and bare their souls in memoirs, talking about things never revealed.
A profusion of publication houses, and writers being elevated to the status of ‘celebrities’, also meant better options for both the writer and the reader. Readers have grown increasingly discerning, and a writer must produce something explosive and out of the box to impress readers in the next decade.
By Janakraj Sapkota
As Nepal’s economy relies more and more on remittance, it is also important to know about the lives of the hardworking emigrants who send home such happiness, while going through great struggles. Janakraj Sapkota’s Kahar is a reportage that does justice to the state of foreign labour employment today. It is emotional, balanced, and a touching read.
By Archana Thapa
The stories in Kathputala are quite unlike any other anthologies in Nepali literature. They revolve around a varied range of issues, from sci-fi to LGBTIQ to childhood sexual abuse and identity crises. The author’s grip on language is noteworthy, with beautiful literary symbols and motifs in some places, and rousing ones in others—especially on women. This is recommended for a contemporary, composed and passionate commentary on present day Nepal (and the world).
Khalangama Hamala (2015)
By Radha Poudel
A nurse lives through the horrors of a civil war, and recounts it in such a simple, artless manner that the trauma is immediately felt by everyone who reads it. This memoir needs to be read for the ways in which the ‘people’s war’ impacted the very people it was purportedly fighting for.
Laato Pahad (2015)
By Upendra Subba
Upendra Subba is a poet at heart, and his stories are poems. The writing is guileless, earthy and rustic, a true rendition of life in Nepal’s villages, especially of the East. The abundant use of Limbu words and expressions brings us closer to the culture. The stories also need to be read for the portrayals of lifelike characters and their days full of hardships and heartwarming joys.
Lamppost Bata Khaseko Jun (2011)
By Manu Manjil
Manu Manjil’s poetry is a sensory delight, an overwhelming torrent of beautiful images, metaphors and lyrical incantations that appeal to the eyes, the mind and heart. His poetry brought about a new era in poetry, encouraging a range of poets who have come up with exciting themes and expressions. The outward softness of his poems, with deep, deep meanings running underneath, deserve to be read and soaked into the soul.
Lekhak ki Swasni (2013)
By Pragati Rai
This novel, translating to ‘The Writer’s Wife’, is a representative story of many, many women in Nepal—especially the wives of ‘famous’ and ‘revered’ men. As the men go about climbing ever higher and gaining accolades, the women have to struggle to manage home and hearth, often leading a lonely and neglected life. Pragati Rai writes simply but heart-wrenchingly of the anguish that these women undergo.
Mayur Times (2010)
By Narayan Wagle
This novel is special for the friendship it explores between two women, one from the hills and another from the plains of Nepal. Parag is an enviable amalgamation of the practical and the idealist, brought up by admirable parents who "put wings on her". Her friend, Lisara Pun, is a sensitive girl who never fails to stand up for what is right. This heartwarming friendship undergoes many tribulations throughout the civil war – leading to an interesting climax.
Sagarmathako Gahirai (2017)
By Nawaraj Parajuli
“I think of you on the day/I think of myself. I think of you on the day/I forget myself. Tell me truthfully, son, did you remember me today, on my birthday?” Nawaraj Parajuli’s poetry is fresh, sensitive, and hard-hitting. The poems stand out because of the simple but universal themes they are written around—a mother’s love, a child’s query, menstrual taboos, emigrants’ distress, longing for the homeland. They are poems that deserve to be reread, and read out loud and clear.
By Uma Subedi
Uma Subedi’s Toda unveils the rarely-analysed perspective of female migrant workers—their miseries, for the most part—in a knowledgeable and authentic manner. Drawing parallels between Nepal’s civil war to Nazi Germany, and then linking these to the modern-day trauma of emigrants, Subedi does an impressive job, describing in succinct prose the complex web of human relations. The novel also explores Israeli food and customs, introducing us to a new culture that hasn’t featured all too extensively in Nepali literature.
By Suresh Pranjali