Accepted Paper:

Belonging and borders in Nepali novels  


Mallika Shakya (South Asian University, Delhi)

Paper short abstract:

I propose to read a selected body of novels penned by BP Koirala and Parijaat – two leading political and literary figures of twentieth century Nepal – in trying to understand the everyday aspects of belonging and borders.

Paper long abstract:

Applying an anthropological lens to fiction, this paper discusses everyday aspects of belonging and borders in twentieth century Nepali novels. Although Nepal was unified as a nation-state over two and half a century ago, it went through several popular uprisings after 1950 questioning what it means to be a Nepali. I propose to read a selected body of novels penned by two of Nepal's prominent writers - BP Koirala and Parijaat in trying to understand its national dilemmas.

BP Koirala's novels explore the dilemmas of humanity in complex circumstances. His novel 'Hitler and the Jew' is about how a South Asian Arya man may comprehend Holocaust, which was not a crime he committed but still an outcome that evoked the self-entitlement Brahminism legitimises. 'Sumnima' deals with civilizational contrast between Brahminic and tribal ways of life. 'Teen Ghumti' explores Brahmanic normalcy through the eyes of a woman waiting for her democratic activist husband to return from jail.

Parijaat's 'Shirishko Fool' depicts the struggles of an old Gorkha soldier to come to terms with the paradoxes of homeland, friendship and love, as he returns from the battlefields of the second World War serving the British.

Koirala and Parijaat were both leading political figures of their times. Koirala briefly served as the Prime Minister of Nepal in the 1950s. Parijaat inspired a leftist writers' movement Raalfa in the 1970s. Their fictions were not used for their politics even if humanity, belonging and borders seem articulated more meaningfully in their fictions than in their politics.

Panel P031
Nationalism in fiction and poetry: South Asia in conversation with the world