Fruits Of The Barren Tree – Lekhnath Chhetri; Translated from the Nepali by Anurag Basnet
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SHORTLISTED FOR THE MADAN PURASKAR 2021
Darjeeling, late 1980s. The demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland has taken a violent turn. The Green Party is at war with the Red Party-and with the state’s security forces. Murder, loot, terror and arson beset the Himalayan foothills.
Fruits of the Barren Tree is a story of that time, and of Relling, a small village near Darjeeling. In Relling there’s Basnet, the village shaman, and his wife; there’s Jhuppay, their son-incorrigible thief, truant and amateur drunk; and also Nimma, Jhuppay’s great love, whose only desire in life is that he take the path of virtue. There’s Chyaatar too, former army man, now a militia commander in the Green Party, who rules the village with an iron hand. Ever the miscreant, nothing Jhuppay does can win Nimma’s heart. But when the Red Party hires his loudspeaker for a meeting-the first innocent, honest job of his life-it sets Jhuppay, Nimma and Chyaatar on a murderous course that fate itself cannot derail.
Originally published in Nepali as Phoolange, this sharp, evocative novel is the story of a failed movement and a cautionary tale of how easily the contagion of violence can infect a community. Intensely visual and imbued with a strong sense of place, it is equally a compelling portrait of Darjeeling away from the brochures and the postcards.
Lekhnath Chhetri is a journalist from Darjeeling, as well as a poet and social activist. His interests lie in fiction, history and the archiving and documenting of violence, both by and against the state. Phoolange was shortlisted for the Madan Puraskar, Nepal’s topmost literary award. He is also a translator, and his last published work was the Nepali translation of The Free Voice by Ravish Kumar.
Anurag Basnet is an editor and translator based in Gangtok, Sikkim. He has been associated with the publishing industry for fifteen years with stints at Penguin Books India (now Penguin Random House India), Rupa Publications and Speaking Tiger. His published works include translations of a travelogue by Anil Yadav, Is That Even a Country, Sir!, and a book of essays by Ravish Kumar, The Free Voice: On Democracy, Culture and the Nation.
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