Modern Nepali fiction might not have the same recognition as modern British fiction or modern Chinese fiction but that should not blind readers to the interesting, if hard to find, works from the country. The recent publication of the modern classic Mountains Painted with Turmeric by Lil Bahadur Chettri and translated by Michael J. Hutt provides readers with an excellent example of twentieth-century Nepali literature.
First published in the 1950’s the book quickly became a canonical and popular work in Nepal. The book, now available in English for the first time, provides a remarkable window into the lives of farmers by depicting in subtle detail the stark realities of village life. In many ways an excellent example of social realism while also transcending the genre, the book portrays the suffering and sorrow endured by ordinary peasants and the exploitation of the poor by the rich and powerful. However, in addition to depictions of economic and political conditions, Chettri also conveys the warmth and intimacy of village life.
The novel was recently reviewed by the Web site the Complete Review, joining a chorus of other praiseworthy reviews from Donald Richie in The Japan Times, who called it “engrossing, instructive, moving,” Time (Asia), and the Nepali Times.