Our pick of Nepali books to read over Dasain

Yogmaya by Neelam Karki Niharika

Neelam Karki Niharika's 2018 Madan Puraskar-winning Yogmaya is a compelling historical fiction on women's rights and freedom of expression. Centred on the figure of pioneer poet and religious leader Yogmaya Neupane, born in 1867 in Bhojpur of eastern Nepal, the novel charts her fight against the autocratic Rana rule of the time. Yogmaya was heavily monitored by the government for her activism and activities, her contributions were censored until the Ranas were overthrown in 1951, even his discontent with the government and the ritual mass suicide, jal samadhi, she and her disciples committed in 1941. Although a fictionalised narrative, Niharika's searing prose explores the themes of sati, child marriage, widowhood, caste- and sex-based discriminations, class struggle from ground-up, with sharp critique of the patriarchy and authoritarianism -- themes that remain pertinent in contemporary times.

योगमाया | Yogmaya                                            

By Nilam Karki Niharika

Sangri~la Books, 2018

503 pages,  Rs595

Ramite by Jason Kunwar

The world of multi-instrumentalist and ethnomusicology scholar Jason Kunwar's 2020 novel Ramite is a fictional one. Multiple narrators chart a landscape with names not found any map one is familiar with. Uga, Magadi, Kharka, Hitkot ... the list goes on. Yet, these are names, places and cultures that the reader will immediately connect to. The voices of the characters, their mannerisms, the geography of hills and rivers, all create a riveting universe complete with its own languages, cultures and civilisations. Among the contemporary penchant in Nepali literature for experimental writing, Ramite also ushers in graphic storytelling in the novel form. With themes of nationalism, migration, generational conflict weaved into a delicate thread, Ramite is a remarkable tale of making sense of one's world.

रमिते | Ramite

By Jason Kunwar

Red Panda Books, 2021

282 pages, Rs850

Lichhavi Lipi: A Book on Epigraphy by Nayanath Paudel

Lichhavi inscriptions in Nepal are relatively rarer compared to Malla: and people who can read those inscriptions are even rarer. Now, scholar Narayan Paudel takes a step at correcting that with his astounding tome, Lichhavi Lipi. The detailed book starts with a look into the development of script from hieroglyphs to the Phoenician alphabets, the Brahmi abugida, making way to the Lichhavi script. It explains the writing system with diagrams and inscriptions, even noting where they could be found in the country the, giving an authentic basis for research to an aspirant scholar or archivist in the history of Nepal, the Lichhavi period, linguistics and scripts.

लिच्छवि लिपि | Lichhavi Lipi: A Book on Epigraphy

By Nayanath Paudel

Published by Pramila Paudel, 2022

686 pages, Rs1200

Kalpa-Grantha by Kumar Nagarkoti

Setting a novel precedent in Nepali publishing, Kumar Nagarkoti's voluminous 2021 book Kalpa-Grantha was available only by pre-order and delivered directly to readers. Packaged as a ready-made gift in a sleek bag, the royal-sized book weighing 1.5kg at 800 pages fits snugly inside a box, accompanied by a postcard and a bookmark. More than a novel marketing strategy, this packaging marked Nagarkoti’s 10th anniversary as a writer, and also his 10th book. A prime example of ergodic writing, Kalpa-Grantha is quite literally a collection of dreams and imaginations, where Nagarkoti plays with languages, form and content -- from typographical stories to screenplays, from conceptual narratives to gray -- challenging writing and storytelling themselves. While the print-run now has been discontinued, Kalpa-Grantha was indeed a touch of newness in Nepal's literary scene.

कल्प-ग्रन्थ | Kalpa-Grantha

By Kumar Nagarkoti

Book Hill Publication, 2021

800 pages

Pather by Shyam Sah

The second collection of stories by Shyam Sah, Pather, continue his exploration into the depths of marginalisation and rebellious consciousness in Madhes. In the style of a confident social realist, these 11 potent stories portray class struggles, exploitation, gender and caste, writing about the people living on the margins, forgotten by the government and often misrepresented. These stories are political at their core, and his aim is to bring Madhes to the forefront, examine exclusionary politics, the justice system, and inspire more such stories to claim their space in the literature of Nepal. The literal definition of 'pather' is a brick-labourer; as a book, there is also an added layer of nuance to this, which points to inequity in societies, distortion and neglect that has repercussions across generations. 

पथेर | Pather

By Shyam Sah

Phoenix Books, 2021

194 pages, Rs350

Yambunera by Bina Theeng

Bina Theeng's third book, Yambunera, is a collection of 13 short stories set in and around the Kathmandu Valley, looking into the sense of otherness and displacement in hearts of its inhabitants entangled in the web of structural discrimination based on caste, colour, culture, religion and region. 'Yambu' in Tamang language means Kathmandu, the place where the ruler lives. Theeng's stories and beautiful and clear, written almost economically, about marginalised Indigenous people revolting against oppression and rejection, critiquing the system that refuses to change and politics that finds comfort in wilful blindness.

याम्बुनेर | Yambunera

By Bina Theeng

Phoenix Books, 2020

173 pages, Rs300

Mera Nau Dashak by Surya Bahadur Thapa

Five-time prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa's life and political career spanned five kings. Born in 1928, Thapa was selected to the national assembly as an independent, and became Chairman of the Advisory Council in 1958. The following year, he was elected to the Upper House, appointed the Minister of Agriculture, Forest and Industry under the newly formed Panchayat system, and drafted King Mahendra's Poush 1 coup speech. During the Maoist insurgency, he initiated talks with the Maoists. After the Second People's Movement, he chaired the second constituent assembly. In his autobiography, Mera Nau Dashak, Thapa's memoir is woven with the political history of modern Nepal, making sense of the possibilities and carving of a sovereign identity. Written by Ganesh Paudel with 310-hours of interviews with Thapa before he died in 2015, the book is as much one man's story as it is a country's biography.

मेरा नौ दशक | Mera Nau Dashak

By Surya Bahadur Thapa

Book Hill Publications, 2022

470 pages, Rs1500