Himalayan Voices: An Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature

Himalayan Voices: An Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature

Himalayan Voices: An Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature

Himalayan Voices: An Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature


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 Voices provides 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 Voices establishes for the first time the existence of a sophisticated literary tradition in Nepal and the eastern Himalaya.


The compiler of any literary anthology is always liable to be accused of sins of omission and commission, and I do not expect to be spared. I began work on this project with the idea of producing two separate books: a much larger and more comprehensive selection of poems in English translation, including works by as many as forty poets, and an anthology of some thirty short stories. These objectives were modified for a number of reasons. It gradually became clear to me that the poetry of another culture can rarely be appreciated or understood fully if its authors are not properly introduced or presented in the context of their own historical and literary traditions. the approach I subsequently adopted was to provide an introduction to the works of a fairly limited number of important Nepali poets. At a later stage it dawned on me that although Nepali short stories contain a wealth of interesting material, many are simply less compelling in a strictly literary sense than are the more highly developed poetic genres.

Each poet who is the subject of a separate chapter in Part One of this book has been chosen for reasons of significance, and the importance of the contribution each has made to Nepali poetry is explained in an introductory preamble to the selection of translated poems. the farther back into the historical past one ventures, the easier it becomes to assess the importance of individual poets. Thus, it is unlikely that any Nepali will wish to quarrel with my choice of the first six poets. It is inevitably more difficult to predict who will come to be regarded in future years as the most important Nepali poets of the more recent past. in general, however, I have relied on the assessments of Nepali critics and anthologists in my choice of both poets and poems. If a poet appears regularly in the four anthologies published by the Royal Nepal Academy and Sājhā . . .

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