पुस्तक समीक्षा: सेतो गुलाब

परिचय

अनिश थापाको “सेतो गुलाब” पढ्न थाल्दा उपन्यास ठूलो अपेक्षा थिएन । “सेतो गुलाब”को धेरथोर चर्चा सुनेरै घरमा किनेर ल्याएको थिएँ । किनेको झन्डै एक वर्षपछि बल्ल पढ्ने मौका मिल्यो । किन एक वर्ष लाग्यो मलाई यो किताब उठाएर पढ्न ? “पाठकले पुस्तक हैन, पुस्तकले पाठक रोज्छ” भनेझैं भएको हो कि ? थाहा छैन ।

“सेतो धरती”मा अमर न्यौपाने सेतो रङ्गलाई उजाड र रङ्गहीन जीवनको प्रतीक बनाउँछन् । समाजले श्रीमान् गुमाएका नारीलाई दिने सेतो रङ्ग दु:खको प्रतीक हो । त्यसको विपरित “सेतो गुलाब”मा अनिश थापा सेतो रङ्गलाई सुन्दरता र पवित्र प्रेमको प्रतीक मान्छन् । हुन पनि सात रङ्गको मिश्रणले सेतो रङ्ग बन्दछ । सेतो प्रकाशलाई कतैकतै पवित्रताको प्रतीक मानिन्छ । त्यस्तै सेतो गुलाबलाई समर्पणको बिम्बका रूपमा पनि हेरिन्छ ।

“सेतो गुलाब”मा प्रेम, मित्रता र समर्पणका कथा आएका छन् । किशोर अवस्थाका पात्रहरूको सरल शब्दमा लेखिएको कहानी छ । स्कुले दिनहरू रमाइलोसँग आएका छन् । सँगै आएका छन् कलिलो उमेरको प्रेमका समस्या, करिअरको चिन्ता अनि उत्प्रेरणा जगाउने प्रसङ्गहरू ।

मुख्य पात्रहरू

अभिजित जसको डायरीबाट मूल कथा आएको छ, सजीव छ । अभिजितलाई निकै राम्रोसँग चित्रण गरेका छन् उपन्यासकारले ।

उसको साथी नीर प्रायः उत्प्रेरकको भूमिका निर्वाह गर्छ । यद्यपि उसमा थोरै भए पनि चञ्चलता छ ।

सुयोना अभिजितजस्तै दु:खी पात्र हो, भलै उसको दृष्टिकोणबाट कथा नबुनिएको होस् । तथापि उसले अभिजितलाई गरेको व्यवहार चित्त बुझ्दो भने लागेन । उसको केसले अभिजितलाई पहिलेदेखि नै प्रेरित गरेको भए कथा अझ राम्रो हुने थियो ।

सद्दाम बाहिर हेर्दा हाउडे भए पनि मनको सफा छ । यद्यपि उसको पात्रता अलि कमजोर भएको हो कि जस्तो लाग्यो ।

समस्याहरू

उपन्यासको संरचनामा थोरै कमजोरी छ । पहिलो दृश्य जसमा सुयोनाले अभिजितको डायरी पढ्न थाल्छे, त्यसलाई प्रोलग बनाउन सकिन्थ्यो । फरक न्यारेटर र टाइमलाइन भएको भाग छुट्टै राख्दा उपन्यासको कथानक बुझ्न अझ सजिलो हुन्छ । त्यस्तै अन्तिमका दृश्यहरू इपिलगका रूपमा आएको भए हुन्थ्यो । अभिजितको डायरीको पहिलो कथा (प्लेन दुर्घटना हुन बाट बचेको) पछि फेरि दोहोरिन्छ । यो भागलाई पछि नै राखेको भए पनि हुन्थ्यो जस्तो लाग्यो ।

कतैकतै नामका हिज्जेमा द्विविधा देखिन्छ । धेरैजसो अभिजित लेखिएको भए पनि कतैकतै अभिजीत भएको छ । केही प्रसङ्ग फरक शब्दमा भए पनि दोहोरिएका छन् ।

सबल पक्षहरू

उपन्यास सरल भाषामा लेखिएको छ । slang हरूको प्रयोग राम्रो छ । संरचनामा कमजोरी जस्तो लागे पनि कथा सलल बगेको छ । पात्रहरू प्रायः राम्रोसँग ह्याण्डल गरिएको छ । विद्यार्थी जीवनका विभिन्न आयाम अटाएका छन् । उपन्यासले फिलोसोफी र साइन्स फिक्सन पनि समेटेको छ ।

अन्त्यमा,
“सेतो गुलाब” अलिअलि फिल्मी लागे पनि पात्रहरूको मिलन, बिछोड र सम्झना समेटिएको मीठो उपन्यास हो ।

Was Gregor Samsa a Monster?: An Analysis of Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’

In the third act of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, the three paying guests living with the Samsas, ask Grete (the sister) to play the violin in their room. While the three boarders are disinterested shortly, and the parents and the sister struggle to impress them, Gregor is “seduced” by the music, and with a desire to protect his sister, moves towards her. At this moment, Kafka throws a question:

“Was he a beast if music could move him so?” (Kafka, The Metamorphosis, Act III)

In my first reading, I told myself, “No, Gregor Samsa is not a monster. He has been a victim of a misfortune, and he has suffered more than he can bear.”

But then, those who love music (and art in general) can also become monsters. Several artists have committed heinous crimes and so have the fans. So, when I went back to Kafka’s question, I found something in the succeeding sentences I had overlooked on my first reading, which completely altered my view. There were hints that showed me why Gregor was a monster–literally as well as figuratively.

I. Gregor and Grete

In the same paragraph where Gregor asks if he is a beast, he is “determined to reach the sister and tug on her skirt to suggest that she take her violin and come into his room, for no one here was as worthy of her playing as he would be. He would never let her leave his room, at least as long as he lived; for the first time, his horrifying appearance would work to his advantage: He would stand guard at all the doors simultaneously, hissing at the attackers; the sister, however, would not be forcibly detained but would stay with him of her own free will.” Had he not transformed, he would have declared on the Christmas that Grete was going to the Conservatory so that she could learn music. “After this declaration the sister would burst into emotional tears and Gregor would raise himself to her shoulder and kiss her neck, which she kept bare since she started working, wearing no ribbon or collar.”

I have no hesitation saying that Gregor has an incestuous desire towards his sister. I also found this article that supports my idea. It says that the desire for his sister (as well as his mother) was “forbidden as a man but not as a beast“.

But, Gregor had wanted Grete even before the transformation. In the second act, we know that “it was his secret plan that she, who unlike Gregor greatly loved music and played the violin movingly, should be sent to the Conservatory next year despite the considerable expense it was sure to incur, which would just have to be met in some other way.

This “secret plan” sounds sinister. Although he had not declared it, everyone in the Samsa family already know that Gregor wants to send his sister to the Conservatory. So, what is the secret plan? Did he want to take her away from the family so that he could take advantage of her? Did his parents sense his sinister thoughts? I firmly believe that the parents refused the idea of sending Grete to the Conservatory because they thought Gregor was already a vermin in his mind.

And, what was the “some other way” to cover the expenses? Was he going to get a better job? That did not seem to be happening soon. Their father’s pension would never be enough. So then, did he want her sister to get a job? Or did he want to push her into prostitution? Because Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment explicitly mentions people forcing young women of their own family into prostitution and living off it, I don’t think this is a wild supposition!

However, what happens in Act I makes me think that Gregor was not limited to desire and secret plan but he had actually raped her.

Gregor has already turned into a monstrous insect and is unable to get up from his bed. The head clerk knocks on Gregor’s door, and his parents call him out but Grete is crying in another room. Why didn’t she come to his door? “And why was she crying?” She didn’t know that Gregor had turned into a monster. Or did she? Did she cry not because Gregor was going to lose his job because but because she had seen him losing humanity and turning into a monster?

Her feelings towards Gregor is more pronounced in Act III after he scares the three boarders away. Grete says, “I refuse to pronounce my brother’s name in front of this monstrosity, and so I say: We have to try to get rid of it. We’ve done everything humanly possible to care for it and tolerate it; I don’t believe anyone could reproach us.”

On my first reading, she sounded cold-hearted to me, but now, I can hear her anger and pain. She must have been tired of feeding the monster. And if she had seen him turn into the beast, the pain must have been unbearable. But then, a question arises: Why did she feed him?

I think it was because of her parents. As Grete painfully says, her parents were attached to Gregor although he had metamorphosed into a monster. Sending her into Gregor’s room could be a sign for Grete to forgive her brother. I am reminded of several cases where girls are dismissed or told to forget what had happened and forgive the perpetrator. when they say they have been raped by their family member. The parents, to protect their son and to see if she gains at least some sympathy for him him, made their daughter give him food to Gregor. She gave him the food, but there was no love. She always feels uneasy around him. Gregor “concluded that the sight of him was still repulsive to her and was bound to remain repulsive, and that she must have exercised great self-control not to take flight at the sight of even the smallest portion of his body protruding from under the couch.” (Kafka, The Metamorphosis, Act II)

Grete was also sure that Gregor would never feel any remorse for what he had done and would never turn into human.

II. The Father’s fury after seeing Gregor as the monster for the first time

In Act I, after Gregor opens the door, his truth is revealed to the Head Clerk, the mother, and the father. The Head Clerk and the mother are shocked and scared, but the father is neither shocked, nor scared. “The father, furiously shaking his fists as if willing Gregor to go back in his room, looked uncertainly around the living room, covered his eyes in his hands, and sobbed with great heaves of his powerful chest.” (Kafka, The Metamorphosis, Act I)

While the sister is crying in another room, the father is angry and sad seeing the monster instead of his son. Because he is not shocked, I am inclined to believe that the father knew what Gregor had done and wanted to punish him. His anger and grief were also directed towards himself as he had not been able to stop Gregor from turning into a monster.

In Act III, after Grete tells they must “get rid of it”, the father is grieved. “If only he could understand us,” he says, meaning Gregor would never understand their love because he was a monster in his mind and body. (However, while reading for the first time, I felt that Gregor’s family was not even trying to understand him. The Metamorphosis has several layers with several valid interpretations which makes it a great story!)

III. The Apple

At the end of Act II, Gregor’s father sees Gregor out of his room. In fury, he begins an attack. He hurls apples at Gregor, one of which is stuck on Gregor’s body for the rest of his life. This, is a clear reference to the biblical story of the apple stuck on Adam’s throat and a symbol of Gregor’s sin.

Conclusion

In this analysis, I conclude Gregor was a monster. However, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis has many layers. Just as in my first reading, Gregor can be read as a victim of unpleasant situation and his family’s abuse of him. He can also be conceived as a depressed character who has struggled to keep up with the pace of the world and feels so helpless that he believes he is a worthless vermin. In that perspective, Gregor’s family appears as cold-hearted monsters, who never try to understand Gregor. It’s astonishing that the characters of The Metamorphosis can sometimes be white, sometimes black, and sometimes grey!

[Note: The quotes included in the article are from The Metamorphosis and Other Stories, (Trans. Donna Fried), Barnes and Noble Classic, 2003. Bold parts of quotes are for emphasis.]

पुस्तक समीक्षा: झोला

‘झोला’ कथासंग्रहमा प्रसिद्ध आख्यानकार कृष्ण धरावासीका बाह्रवटा कथा राखिएका छन् । यीमध्ये केही पछिसम्म सम्झन सकिने खालका छन् । सबै कथाहरूको छोटो चर्चा गर्दछु ।

पहिलो कथा ‘झोला’ सर्वप्रिय कथा हो । सतीप्रथाको विकराल दृश्य प्रस्तुत भएको यो कथा ‘श्रुति संवेग’मा प्रस्तुत भएको थियो । त्यसपछि नै एउटा अनलाइनमा भेटेको थिएँ अनि बाबाले पढेर सुनाउनुभएको थियो । यस कथामा आधारित चलचित्र पनि बनिसकेको छ जसलाई धेरै प्रशंसा गरिएको थियो । यो कथासंग्रह को सबैभन्दा उत्कृष्ट कथा पनि ‘झोला’ नै हो ।

‘ठेकुवाकी आमा’ पनि मन परेको अर्को कथा हो । ठेकुवाकी आमाले ठेकुवा (छोरा) लिएर राजेन्द्र साहुसँग पोइल गएपछि कथा सुरु भएको छ । उसको विगत बुझेपछि उसले लिएको कदम ठीकै लाग्छ । तर पछि उसले गरेको गल्तीले ल्याएको वियोगान्तले रुवायो ।

‘ती दिन कहिले आउलान ?’ लेखनको दृष्टिकोणले अनौठो छ । यस्तो किसिमको कथा पहिले पढेको थिइनँ । पात्रहरूको नाम नदिई संवाद मात्रै दिइएकोछ । कसले बोलेको भन्ने बुझ्न चाहिँ बुलेट पोइन्ट हेर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ । कुनै आन्दोलन या द्वन्द्वकालको अवस्था छ भन्ने बुझिन्छ यो कथाका संवादमा तर पात्रहरूसँग कनेक्सन नभएकाले खासै मन परेन ।

चौथो कथा ‘उनीहरूले कहिले गीत गाए?’ म पात्रले सानैमा गरेको सोही प्रश्न र उमेर ढल्किएपछि पाएको प्रश्नमा केन्द्रित छ । यसले सामान्य कुरा देखाएर गहिरो भाव बोकेको छ । अर्को कथा ‘साँघु काट्नु’ले क्रान्तिकारीहरूले साँघु (पुल) काटेको कुरालाई एउटा बच्चा ले कसरी बुझ्छ भन्ने कुरा देखाइएको छ ।

‘भो छाड्नुस् ती पुराना कुरा’ले एउटी महिलाका निर्णयहरू प्रस्तुत गरेको छ । यद्यपि पात्रहरूको विकास राम्ररी गरिएको छैन । घटनाहरू कथाकै लागि मात्र भएजस्ता लाग्छन् ।

‘इस्कुस’ कथाले अनौठो यौन मनोविज्ञान समेटेको छ । बिहे गरेको छ महिनापछि श्रीमतीसँग भेट्न हिंडेको ‘म’ पात्रले इस्कुसलाई ‘विशेष’ देखेको कुराले हास्या सिर्जना गरेको छ । ‘विश्वास’ कथाले भने वर्षौंदेखि सँगै रहेका जोडीले पनि कसरी एकअर्कालाई शंका गर्न सक्छन् भन्ने देखाएको छ । यो कथामा शंकाले लंका जलाउँदैन । यो कुरा मनपर्यो ।

जातीय भेदभाव सानै उमेरदेखि कसरी सुरु हुन सक्छ भन्ने कथा हो ‘एउटा सानो केटो’ । ‘म’ पात्रले एउटा ब्राहमण केटोलाई कसैलाई पनि भेदभाव गर्न हुन्न भनेर सिकाएको यो कथा ठीकै लाग्यो ।

‘मह’ कथाले सोझालाई बाठाले कसरी झुक्क्याउन सक्छन् भन्ने देखाएको छ । त्यस्तै माथिल्लो पदका कर्मचारीको मूर्खता र सफाई गर्न पनि तल्लो पदका कर्माचारी पर्खिनै पर्ने “बाध्यता”लाई व्यङ्ग्य गरेको छ ।

‘मास्टरबाबु’ पनि मन परेको कथा हो । यसमा बाहिर एउटा र भित्र अर्को रुप भएको एउटा पात्रको बयान छ । यसको आश्चर्यजनक अन्त्यले मास्टरबाबुप्रतिको हेराइ नै परिवर्तन हुन्छ ।

संग्रहको अन्तिम कथा ‘बसकी केटी’मा बस यात्राका दौरान ‘म’पात्र र उसकी छेउमा बसेकी एउटी केटीको बारेमा छ । ‘म’पात्रका मनमा खेल्ने कुराहरूमा पुरुष मनोविज्ञान देखिन्छ ।

समग्रमा, ३.५/५

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7 Days 7 Books

7 Days 7 Books is a challenge on Facebook that has been running among Nepali book-lovers for a couple of years. The aim was to promote reading culture. This year, it got an extra agenda-“Make books tax free!”

The addition of tax on imported books and those printed in India/overseas should have affected the publishers and distributors, but it looks like they won’t be affected. Instead they would hike the price and make things difficult for parents and students (who are in compulsion to buy textbooks from abroad), and for book-lovers. “The total removal of tax in books would help a lot of students,” a lot of us argued. #Makebookstaxfree got into the internet, and there were campaigns against the taxes at several places, of which Patan was the first. I could not go there because the time clashed with my language classes but I gave my moral support.

The 7 Days 7 Books Challenge says, “Post a book’s cover everyday for 7 days without any review or explanation.” But when I was challenged by my friend Gauri Bomjan, I had a strong urge to at least explain why I chose those books. I thought, ‘Anyone can Google book covers and post them. If I don’t explain, people will not be attracted.’ But later I accepted the challenge as it was to see if I can be wrong. Since the challenge is completed, I now list the 7 books that I posted (all of which are Nepali) along with answers to “Why I chose them?”

Day 1: मोती र गुलाफ (My Translation: Pearls and Roses) by Shivahari Adhikari

I received this book when I was in Class 1 as a prize in a poem recitation contest. This book has 6 folk tales from 6 countries. This book is close to my heart, and since it came back to me after remaining at one of my neighbours for several years, my mother did not allow anyone to take it away.

Day 2: बनारसमा बेचिएकी बहिनी (My Translation: A Sister sold in Benaras)–Nagendra

We did not have book-shelves as there was no space in our house. (We still don’t have much space but we got our first book-shelf last week, thanks to my parents.) So, those days, books were stored in an old carton box. I used to extract books and magazines from it time and again. I found this book in that box when I was in Class 8 while we were shifting to our neighbour’s on rent (we were building a bigger house where our old small house was). Before reading this book, I thought essays were always factual with very little chance of bringing in fiction or personal opinions. This book changed my thought.

I have a deep respect for this book as a Guru for my essays and blogs. It has inspired the way I evaluate situations and people, and I have no shame in saying that Nagendra’s writing style has inspired some of my writings.

Day 3: धुवाँ (Translation: Smoke) by Atma Ram Sharma

My father got this book from his friend (the author). I read this book several times during my vacations during my childhood. I had forgotten it completely until I found it while looking for books to post for the challenge. The story collection has several stories of sorrow. I have never read it as an adult. So, the challenge has reminded me that I should read it again.

Day 4: एउटा कथा भन्नु न हजूरआमा (My Translation: Grandma, Please tell a story) by Ramesh Bikal

Ramesh Bikal is a writer who has written stories for all age groups. This books for children are noteworthy for their mythical and magical elements. My mother gave this book when I was in 15. I fell in love with the stories instantly. But as I haven’t read it for a long time, I have forgotten them. Another book in the to-read-again list.

Day 5: जंगबहादुर (Junga Bahadur) by Shree Krishna Shrestha

I read parts of this book in Sadhana Magazine. I read it last year in free times during my trip to Japan and wrote a review in Nepali. I looked for information on the author but could not find him then. After I posted this photo for the challenge, my teacher Nir Shakya wrote that Late Mr Shree Krishna Shrestha was a chemist and was also the Head of Water Resources Department. I had a mixture of emotions as I got some real info about the author after so many years, but after his demise.

Day 6: घनचक्कर (Ghanachakkar) by Sanjeev Upreti

Ghanachakkar is a crazy ride with one of the craziest narrators of all time. Set during the insurgency period Kathmandu, this novel is a psychological experience. I got this book as a prize in Class 9. I finished the book within five hours the day I got it, leaving me in hallucinations and confusion. I have read it several times since and each time I have found something new.

Day 7: लिखे (Likhe) by Sharad Poudel

I read some chapters of this book in Nawa Yuwa magazines of the late nineties. As with Junga Bahadur, I bought it immediately when I saw it in a book store. This novel shows real struggles of the so-called “untouchables” in a small village in the Western District of Baglung. The dialect, the life-style and the social problems have been captured so well that Likhe’s struggles in his young age can make one cry.

At the end, I realized that it is possible to attract readers to books by just showing the photos. So, why a long post as this? Because, (1) I can’t find peace until I write this and (2) I hope I can attract more readers through this article.

रणहार: अन्तिम मल्ल राजाको मनोदशाको कथा

रणहार [Ranahar]रणहार [Ranahar] by Yogesh Raj
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“रणहार” मल्लकालिन ‘सो नगरहरू’ (कान्तिपुर, पाटन र भक्तपुर)को कलह, र तीनै राज्यका आन्तरिक कलहले गर्दा गोर्खा राज्यसँग पराजित अन्तिम मल्ल राजा रणजित मल्लको कथा हो । उपन्यासले रणजित मल्लको मानसिकता पर्गेल्न खोजेको छ र केही हदसम्म यसमा सफल छ ।

उपन्यासमा तात्कालिक नेवा: राज्यको सजीव चित्र छ । ‘जुजु’का क्रियाकलापदेखि जनताका दिनचर्यासम्म अटेका छन् । भक्तपुर दरबार, चाँगुनारायण नारायण र न्यातपोलको बारेमा धेरै थाहा नभएका कुरा उपन्यासमा पढ्न पाएँ । भक्तपुर दरबारका अनगिन्ति चोकहरुको बारेमा सबैलाई थाहा नभएको र भित्रबाट कसैले सहयोग नगरेसम्म भेद्न असम्भव भएबाट विश्वासघात भित्र बाटै भएको थियो भन्ने सङ्केत गर्दछ । पृथ्वीनारायण शाहलाई कुमरीमाजुले कमलको फूल दिएको इतिहास पहिले पढेको थिएँ । यसमा आउँदा खुशी भएँ । पछि पृथ्वीलाई गोर्खाका राजा भनेर पटकपटक भनिएको छ । मितछोरा भए पनि उनले गरेको छल देखाउन प्रयोग गरिएको सम्बोधन लेखकको चातुर्य हो । युद्धमा हारेपछि रणजीत मल्लको जुन वर्णन छ, त्यसले स्थीतप्रज्ञको आभास दिन्छ ।

रणजीत मल्लको रणहारको कथा जसरी प्रस्तुत भएको होला भनेर सुरु गरेको थिएँ, त्यस्तो पाइनँ । प्रस्तुतिको शैली अलि अल्छिलाग्दो लाग्यो । कुनै पनि संवाद उद्दरणभित्र छैन, जसले अल्मल्याउँछ । नेपाल भाषाका सबै शब्दहरूको अर्थ दिइएको छैन । तिनलाई पछाडि राख्नुभन्दा फुटनोट बनाएको भए हुन्थ्यो । रणजीतको अपहरणको प्रसङ्ग अधुरो छ । यसले सम्पादनको कमी देखाउँछ । कथा क्रमबद्ध नभएकाले कतैकतै अलमलिएँ । विचारप्रधान उपन्यास भए पनि मदन पुरस्कार पाउन लायक चैं लागेन ।

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Book Review: Dr Sanduk Ruit’s biography could have been brilliant but it lacks lustre

The first time I had heard the name of Dr Sanduk Ruit was in 2006 when he was awarded with the Magsaysay Prize. As uncommon his name sounded to me, the determination to help the poor by treating their eye diseases at an affordable price was also uncommon.

Despite his revolutionary work in treating cataracts and establishment of the famous Tilganga Hospital, Dr Sanduk Ruit is not as famous as he should be. This is probably due to his low-profile attitude, his appreciation for his team, and insufficient media coverage from Nepal. This is a book that helps one understand Ruit and appreciate his hard work in helping the helpless. It gives insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the beloved doctor. It tells about his family, his beliefs and his passion. These factors make the book valuable.

The book is interesting at first. The early life of Ruit engaged me. The hardships of his and his parents’ lives tells a lot about the struggles the blind have to go through in the rural Himalayas. However, their journey to Darjeeling, Dhankuta and later to Kathmandu makes them more privileged than most people in the area. The book has not emphasized this, however, which seemed quite odd to me.

Dr Ruit’s greatest achievement lies in the establishment of a cheap and efficient method of cataract surgery, and the book does wonderful work in capturing that. His work in the Upper Mustang is the best because the team had suffered a lot to reach there and establish a camp. In spite of all the hardships, they were able to restore sights of hundreds. This and several other camps are inspiring.

The non-linear narration gives the feel of watching a documentary. In some places, it is good but in many places, when the timeline shifts from one to another, I felt like I missed an important matter. The non-linearity also means that sentences, paragraphs, and at one instance, a case are repeated.

There are some issues in the book that disappointed me. One is the exaggeration of the caste issue. In the part where Ruit’s parents get married, class could have been an issue instead of caste. But it does not matter because it does not take the narrative anywhere. The wedding is accepted by both the families and there is no pride in them. In the chapters of his childhood in the school at Darjeeling, he is said to have been bullied and he was left alone because of his caste/race. A picture in the book itself, however, tells a different story.

When the doctors of Nepal Eye Hospital refused to follow Ruit’s method, caste system is blamed directly. The reasons are obvious: (1) Ruit’s method had not gone through a proper clinical trial, and (2) people are always sceptical about new technologies that have not appeared in peer-reviewed journals. To bring caste, in this case, was absolutely unnecessary.

This one part of Ruit’s life that made me sad and furious. Ruit pulled off a cheap Bollywood style stunt in order to make Nanda talk to him. This is the worst part, and the most uninspiring. The fact that Nanda, despite being great at nursing, left her job “to look after the family” is also uninspiring. She did what is traditionally expected of women in Nepal. But I felt they could have done so much more, had she and Ruit been together in all their camps.

I wish Nepalese journalists gave more emphasis on inspiring works of common people instead of conspiracy theories and political figures. It’s a wonder we did not have a Nepali book on Dr Ruit before this book came out. The translation of the book has also arrived, but Khagendra Sangraula has not been able to deliver an interesting retelling in Nepali. There is literal translation in most places, including titles, that put me off.

Summary

Book: The Barefoot Surgeon (Sanduk Ruit in Nepali Translation)

Author: Ali Gripper

Rating: 3/5

पुस्तक समीक्षा : जङ्गबहादुर

साधना मासिक सन् नब्बेको दशकको उत्कृष्ट म्यागजिन थियो । यस मासिकका धेरै अंकहरू बाबाले संग्रह गरेर राख्नु भएको थियो, जसमध्ये धेरैजसो डेरा र घर सर्दा हराए । अब केही मात्रै बाँकी छन् । “जङ्गबहादुर” उपन्यास धारावाहिक रुपमा प्रकाशन हुन्थ्यो । गगनसिंहलाई मार्न फत्तेजंग, अभिमानसिंह राना र जङ्गले लिएको सपथ अनि कोतपर्वको विवरण भएका दुई भिन्न अंकहरू अहिलेसम्म पनि सुरक्षित छन् । उपन्यासलाई आधार मानेर सामाजिक शिक्षाको परीक्षामा जङ्गबहादुरको उदयलाई अंग्रेजीमा लेख्ने गर्थें । यो विषयमा मैले पाठ्यपुस्तक कहिले पनि हेरिन । तर बजारमा उपन्यास भेटिंदैनथ्यो ।

यसपाली पुसमाघतिर विशालनगरमा यो उपन्यास अचानक देखेँ । सपनाजस्तो लाग्यो । केही दिनमा पैसा जुटाएर लिएँ तर पढ्ने फुर्सद थिएन । पाँचौँ संस्करण रहेछ । मार्च महिनाको सुरुवातमा जापान भ्रमण ताका सँगै लिएर गएँ अनि पढें पनि । तर थकान अनि किताबमा भेटिएका गल्तीका कारण पूरै पढ्न सकिनँ । फाइनल एक्जाम सकिएपछि चाहिं फेरी थालेँ र पढी भ्याएँ ।

सबल पक्ष

१. उपन्यासले जङ्गबहादुरलाई क्रुर मात्र देखाएको छैन, उनलाई कुन परिस्थितिले त्यस्तो बनायो भन्ने पनि प्रष्ट बताएको छ ।

२. त्यस समयमा भएका षडयन्त्रहरू र हत्याकाण्डहरू कहाली लाग्दा छन् । रानी लक्ष्मीदेवीको उन्माद र राजा राजेन्द्रको अकर्मण्यताले घटनाक्रमलाई अगाडि बढाउन मद्दत गरेका छन् ।

३. कोतपर्व र भण्डारखाल पर्वको चित्रण उत्कृष्ट छ । हत्याका दृश्यहरू सजीव छन् । यसले पारेको प्रभाव माथि पनि लेखिसकेका छु ।

४. जङ्गबहादूरको प्रेमिल पक्ष अनौठो र रमाइलो लाग्छ । यो त्यत्तिकै आएको छैन । जङ्गकी प्रेमिका (पछि पत्नी) पुतलीले जासूस र सलाहकारका रूपमा जङ्गलाई सहयोग गरेकी छिन् ।

५. जङ्ग र उनका भाइहरू बीचको सम्बन्ध राम्रोसँग देखाइएको छ अनि डायमन शमशेरको “सेतो बाघ”को अन्त्यमा भएका घटना (जङ्गका छोरा नातिको हत्या) को बीजारोपण पनि यहाँ गरिएको छ । तर सेतो बाघभन्दा बढी तथ्यपरक छ ।

दुर्बल पक्ष

१. सेतो बाघमा जस्तो लेखकको विचार नै त आउँदैन तर “यसो होला भन्ने कसैले सोचेको भए” भन्ने किसिमका वाक्यहरू दोहोरिइरहन्छन् । यसले कथावाचनलाई अलि कम्जोर बनाएको छ ।

२. चरित्र चित्रण गर्ने केही वाक्यहरू दोहोरिइरहन्छन् । यसले कथालाई छरितो बनाउनबाट रोकेको छ ।

३. अलौ पर्वसम्म विस्तारमा भनिएको कथा त्यसपछि भने सारांश बन्छ । जङ्गबहादुरको बेलायत भ्रमण, मुलुकी ऐनको घोषणा, नेपाल-तिब्बत युद्ध जस्ता विषय केही वाक्यमा समापन हुन्छन् ।

४. जङ्गले इष्ट इन्डिया कम्पनीलाई भारतको सैनिक विद्रोहमा सहयोग गरेको प्रसङ्ग आएकै छैन ।

५. उपन्यासमा प्रिन्ट एरर धेरै छन् । सम्पादनको कमी छ । र पुस्तकको ISBN नहुनु आश्चर्यको विषय हो ।

पुस्तक : जङ्गबहादुर

विधा : ऐतिहासिक उपन्यास

लेखक : श्रीकृष्ण श्रेष्ठ

पृष्ठ संख्या : ३०२

प्रकाशक : कामना पब्लिकेशनस्                      

Why Kazuo Kiriyama did not win the Battle

Kazuo Kiriyama is the best “player” of the “game” that involves killing classmates. He alone kills twelve of his classmates. Yet he ends up dead. A lot of Battle Royale video game fans seem to be annoyed by this fact. They say, “He deserved to win.” I say, “He didn’t. A novel or a movie is different from a video game.”

The kid who never smiled

We get the first and the most important insight into Kazuo Kiriyama’s character through Mitsuru Numai in Chapter 11. Mitsuru had been in an occasion, saved from bullies by Kazuo and since then, he had revered the latter. He believed Kazuo was the one capable of beating the system and destroy the Battle Royal Programme because he had defeated local yakuza (Yakuza is an organization of powerful Japanese gangsters or mafias).

Mitsuru and his friends make him the leader of the gang called the Kiriyama family. Despite being called notorious in the city, the Kiriyama family never bullied upon others in the school. They all relied on Kazuo Kiriyama and did things for fun. However, when Kiriyama kills his gang within an hour of the beginning of the game, Mitsuru Numai notices one thing that they had always ignored: “Kazuo Kiriyama never smiled.” (Chapter 11, Battle Royale)

Kazuo Kiriyama is apathetic. He does not feel anything. Neither joy, nor sorrow, no pity, no guilt. We later know that while he was still in his mother’s womb, she fell in an accident and a stake had entered Kiriyama’s head. The accident destroyed his emotional centre. Whatever the reason, Kiriyama is what Shogo Kawada tells us: “A hollow man … There’s no place in his heart for logic or love, no. For any kind of values. That kind of person. On top of that, there’s no reason for the way he is.” (Chapter 67, Battle Royale).

The coin toss

If one thing that changed the complexion of the story, it is Kiriyama’s coin toss. He had two options:

  1. To participate in the game, and
  2. To destroy the Battle Royale Programme and the government.

Kiriyama’s choices are not based on logic. They were based on chance. Had he used logic, he would have chosen the second option. He would have been a great helping hand to our heroes Shogo Kawada, Shuya Nanahara and Shinji Mimura. None of our heroes believed he was capable of killing his classmates. He hadn’t even bullied one! Kiriyama’s coin toss, thus becomes a bane for all his classmates.

Even if Kiriyama had not been thinking logically, had the coin toss made him destroy the Programme, he would have got support from his gang as well as the others. They would not have to fear their own classmates. Forty of them could have brought down the Programme in no time.

In the movie, however, Kiriyama is a new student like Shogo Kawada and is a mystery. In the novel, he is their classmate and still a mystery. Kiriyama from the novel, to me, is a bigger villain. But he could have easily turned into a hero.

Why Kiriyama did not win

Simply, because letting Kiriyama win was against the books theme of love and kindness. Kiriyama is the exact opposite of love and kindness. Had Koshun Takami, the author, let Kiriyama win, he would have set a wrong example. He had to save the lovely Noriko and the lucky Shuya to send a message: “Apathy is a vice,” and: “Choice made without reasoning is a curse.”

Had Kiriyama won, another theme of the book would have been crushed: rebellion. After the coin toss, Kiriyama’s chance of being a rebellion dies. Rebellion stays alive in the form of Nakagawa and Nanahara. They didn’t get long lecture from Kawada about the system and change to get killed in the end. They are there to bring about some change. Kiriyama’s victory would have shattered Shogo’s dream, and our hopes that the Battle Royale Programme would come to an end. Kiriyama did not win. We still have a hope.

[Featured image obtained from fdzeta.com]

Battle Royale: Themes in Movies and Books

Battle Royale has a simple concept: 42 students are abducted to an island, provided with weapons and made to fight each other. What would they do?  Some would fear for their lives and attack first. Some would form allies (and later betray). Some would go on a rampage, while some would seek for peace. Koshun Takami plays at these possibilities and delivers the details of the battle at an unimaginable level. Here I discuss some of the themes I discovered in Battle Royale.

  1. Authority, trust and rebellion

The novel is set in the fascist regime of the Republic of Greater East Asia (RGEA) in 1997. The country is basically Japan in an alternate timeline. However, from the details in the plot, I could sense that the Republic of Greater East Asia also included China.

I wonder how the fascism originated in the Republic. Could it be the Chinese communist influence, or could it be the World War II Japan? The latter feels more likely. During the Second World War, Japan was an imperialistic force that had sided with Germany. Japan even invaded China until they were sent back the PLA led by Mao. In the alternate timeline, Japan might have won both the wars and established an authoritarian rule. But we do not know.

Here is a conversation that makes it difficult to know the country’s history.

Noriko interrupted him, ‘Seventy-five years ago?’ Hugging her knees under her pleated skirt, Noriko tilted her head with a puzzled look on her face.

Noriko then looked over at Shuya. Shuya nodded and then looked back at Shogo. ‘I heard something about how the history they teach us is a big lie and that the current Dictator is hardly the 325th Dictator. In fact, he’s only supposed to be the twelfth one, right?’

Shuya glanced at Noriko’s surprised face, but when he heard Shogo’s next statement, ‘Well, even that might not be true,’ he raised his brow.

‘What do you mean?’

Shogo smiled and said, ‘There is no Dictator. He doesn’t exist. He’s just made up. That’s what I heard.’

‘What?’

‘That can’t be…’ Noriko said hoarsely, ‘but we see him on the news…and on New Year’s he makes an appearance in front of everyone at his palace…’

‘Right.’ Shogo grinned. ‘But who is this ‘everyone at the palace’? Have you ever met someone who was actually there? What if they were actors too, just like the Dictator?’

Battle Royale (Chapter 31)

Though the history is dubious, it is clear that the government wants control over its citizens. Battle Royale Programme (aka Battle Experiment No. 68 or the Programme) is a form of control. The abducted children are forced to fight and one of them stands out as the winner. These children fear (and/or mistrust) each other. In the situation, they forget the good times they had together. Some examples are:

  • Yoshio Akamatsu is the first to be grabbed by fear. He kills a girl from a safe spot and attacks Shuya Nanahara.
  • Yuko Sakaki sees Nanahara “kill” Tatsumichi Oki and out of fear, tries to poison him. Her action causes a shootout in the Light House (the most intense scene in both the book and the movie), and five girls kill each other. She herself commits suicide.
  • Kayoko Kotohiki attacks Hiroki Sugimura thinking he is going to kill her. Hiroki’s only mission, however is to search her, protect her (if possible) and to confess his love for her. (This is one of those scenes which is better than in the book than in the movie.)

What about the parents and guardians of the students who are abducted for the “Experiment”? They get informed about it. Some protest. They are killed or tortured by the government. Shogo’s father was killed when he was the participant of the previous Programme. Kinpatsu Sakamochi (Programme Supervisor) raped Anno, Nanahara’s caretaker. And the others accept their fate of having to lose a child. Noriko Nakagawa’s parents are said to be alive at the end of the story.

Any resistance against the Programme or the government is crushed. Mr. Hayashida (the teacher) is killed when he resists to cooperate with Sakamochi. Shinji Mimura’s uncle is said to have died in an accident but Shinji believes that he was murdered by the government for being rebellious.

Also, the Programme is equal to all. The participant could be the son of a bureaucrat or an aristocrat or may be an orphan. None of it matter. No one is spared. The moment between Kyoichi Motobuchi, the class representative and Kinpatsu Sakamochi makes this concept clear.

Some of his classmates might have been hoping that Kyoichi would provide some adequate rational form of protest. Kill the friends you were hanging out with yesterday? It was impossible. Someone’s making a mistake here. Hey rep, can you take care of this one for us?

“’M-my father is a director of environmental affairs in the prefectural government. How could the class I’m in be selected for th-the Program?…’

Due to his shaking, his tense voice sounded even more wound up than usual.

The man who called himself Sakamochi grinned and shook his head, his long hair swinging in the air. ‘Let’s see. You’re Kyoichi Motobuchi, right?

‘You must know what equality means. Listen up. All people are born equal. Your father’s job in the prefectural government doesn’t entitle you to special privileges. You are no different. Listen up, everybody. You all have your own distinct personal backgrounds. Of course some of you come from rich families, some from poor families. But circumstances beyond your control like that shouldn’t determine who you are. You must all realize what you’re worth on your own. So Kyoichi, let’s not delude ourselves that you’re somehow special—because you’re not!’”

Battle Royale, Chapter 3

***

But the characters do not stop thinking about the rebellion. Shinji wants to avenge his uncle and tries hacking into their Programme computer which is in a school. When he fails, he makes an explosive to blast off the school. He fails again.

Shinji might have also been successful if he had tried to look for more allies but he does not seem to trust people. His uncle had told:

‘It’s best not to trust groups and movements. They’re not very reliable.’

He even kills a friend, Keita Iijima when he feels that he would leak his plan of blowing up the school.

The conversation between Shogo Kawada, Shuya Nanahara and Noriko Nakagawa provide insight into whether the rebellion would be successful. Shogo, who seems to know a lot, believes that people wouldn’t resist the government and a revolution for freedom may never occur. Their prosperity had made people oblivious to freedom. They believed in what the government believed: “controlled freedom is necessary for prosperity”. (Personally, I too feel this is true but I believe in soft control, unlike that of the RGEA.)

Even though Shogo has personal grudge against the government, he begins a rebellion by saving two people from the Programme and hijacking a military boat. Nanahara and Nakagawa are in the run in the book and the movie. Battle Royle 2 is the movie (I haven’t watched yet) in which the government has declared them as terrorists.

  1. Kindness and Love

The novel has a lot of moments in which one character says to another: “You’re kind.”

Shinji Minura helps Noriko Nakagawa during the briefing by Kinpatsu Sakamochi, when the bullet ricocheting through Yotitoki Kuninobu hits her leg. Shuya Nanahara helps Noriko after they are sent to the “battlefield”. Shogo Kawada helps both of them. And though Hiroki Sugimura cannot help as he would like to, he has also been described as kind. Hiroki is also the tragic hero, who dies at the hands of his beloved.

On the opposite spectrum are Kazuo Kiriyama and Mitsuko Souma. While Mitsuko’s backstory makes one sympathetic towards her, one can’t even sympathize at Kiriyama’s death. His apathy makes him a one dimensional character—one who is perfect and wants to win the battle. However, he does not succeed. Had he succeeded, kindness and love would have lost. Rebellion would have lost. Battle Royale would have ended in a darker note, with a loss of hope.

Sakura Ogawa and Kazhuhiko Yamamoto are among the first to die. I felt their suicide was a symbol of lost love. Mitsuko Souma is one of the girls who has involved in prostitution even before her puberty. The book says she was gang-raped, the movie shows her mother forcing her into prostitution. The way she acts during the battle was also the result of lost love. Hiroki’s loss is also an instance of love losing to fear.

So the one way to make love victorious was to save Noriko and Shuya. Shogo, who himself is a tragic hero from the previous battle, helps them. He had been their savior and their guide. It was extremely tragic that he died. Had he survived, it would have been a wonderful journey for the three.

  1. Mutual Respect among teachers and students

The theme of mutual respect is not prominent in the book. The movie is different in this respect. The whole Battle Royale Programme stems from a law (BR Act) to control the rebellious youth. The school students frequently bunk Kitano’s classes and attacks him with a knife in the corridor. When Kitano enters later as the Programme Supervisor, he seems to be taking a revenge.

However, the individual youth might have also been thinking: Why should I respect elders who don’t respect me? The characters have gone through a lot due to the neglect of the adults. Shuya has been an orphan when his father couldn’t bear the pain of poverty. Mitsuko has been pushed to prostitution by her own mother. Yoshitoki Kuninobu and Fumiyo Fujiyoshi are killed by Kitano against the rule and no one punished him, though he talks about following rules.

The second epilogue in the movie (Requiem II) shows the common dream of Noriko and Kitano. Noriko says she had taken the knife that had been used to attack him. He asks, “What am I supposed to say at this moment?” Though Kitano likes Noriko, and Noriko respects him, her statement is surprising. I felt that the complexity of the relation between adults and children is shown in that scene.

 

 

 

Battle Royale: PUBG, the movie, the novel

PUBG: “The original Battle Royale game”

PUBG_compressed

My best friend Anish introduced me to PUBG. The concept was simple. Maximum of 100 players dropped into an island fighting each other and the winner was the last one standing. It looked interesting but my phone could not meet its specifications. A couple of months later, Ashok (my friend from college) discovered an emulator for desktop. At least a dozen of us downloaded the emulator and the game. When the game downloaded, it said: “The original Battle Royale game is now installed on your device.”

The term “Battle Royale” intrigued me. I had seen the term before in Wikipedia when I read about the game but I had somehow skipped it. That time, I guess I only wanted to know why the game was popular. I did not give it another thought. While playing the game (and after going through a lot of “funny moments”, which were not so funny), a thought came into my mind, What if I could write a novel based on the game?

That’s why I looked if there was a novel like that. And (unfortunately for my creativity) I found the Japanese movie. Curious, I went through the Wikipedia, movie was actually inspired by a Japanese novel.

Battle Royale: The Movie (2000)

The Kinji Fukasaku movie destroyed my PUBG experience. It was unlike any of the games I had played. It felt scary, tumultuous, and even childish at times, but mostly it felt nauseous. I mean, who would be in a right state of mind when you are forced to kill your friends in an island. Crazy situation dictates crazy measures but the madness of the fifteen-year-olds disturbed me.

The movie, in my opinion, is not the best in terms of execution but the idea itself felt great. What would happen if 42 students are forced to kill each other in an island by the government? The question hooked me till the end. The outcome of the movie was not unexpected. I actually knew who were going to survive but still I hoped Kawada survived. The end of Kitano (former teacher and BR Programme Supervisor) too felt comical and I thought it could have been better.

Battle Royale: The Novel (1997)

battle royale

Koshun Takami, the author of the novel sent the book for a horror competition in 1996. The horror of being killed by your own friend is inexplicable but the book is more like dystopian adventure. The dispute of genre probably helped the book. Takami’s book became a best-seller and controversial because of its violence. It was banned in several countries. Even the Diet (Japanese legislature) was interested. Then later, it was made into a movie. I felt so excited when I read this history.

And I (wrongly) thought the movie was dark! The novel is even darker. It’s been inspired from the Pro Wrestling Battle Royale as described in the “Introduction” section. (You must have noticed a real long list of inspirations by now.) “I feel like puking,” Shuya Nanahara and Shogo Kawada say often in the book. That’s what I felt. Yes, the novel is even more nauseous than the book.

The book explains the motive behind the initiation of the Battle Royale Programme aka the Programme clearly than that in the movie. It goes in length inside the minds of each character to give the reader complete information about them. This scheme is great mostly and feels boring at times, but I love Takami for taking the risk. The end of the Programme Supervisor Kinapatsu Sakamochi is not comical but I did not feel the satisfaction. I wanted Nanahara to kill him instead of Kawada. Kawada did have personal issue with the government and Sakamochi is a government official but Nahahara had a personal vendetta against him. Sakamochi had raped his caretaker Anno and had killed his brotherly best friend, Yoshitoki Kuninobu.

Differences

Both the Battle Royale novel and the movie have the same basic premise: 42 students forced to kill each other by the government. However, the novel is about the revolt against atrocious Fascist government, while the movie is about the adult-teenagers (teacher-student) relationship. The attack on Kitano in the beginning and then his love for the disciplined Noriko (despite being the Program Supervisor) emphasize this. The movie also might have been made in a lighter tone to make it approvable for 15+.

The book is not just about the teenagers and the adults. It is about the system that has been economically successful but does not tolerate protest. Any protester is a threat to the government who is removed immediately. The Programme is about creating mistrust among people, to keep them divided and to rule upon them. It is a story of how three students deceive the government by trusting each other—an act that was totally unexpected in the state of chaos. Government is the villain in the book. Kinpatsu Sakamochi is only a scratch in a very long and webbed list of villains.

PUBG, on the other hand is a sort of distraction to the youth. A way to let out your frustration so that you can start something anew in an efficient manner. (I am reminded of Fight Club, which I watched today.) The game is addictive and I love the way it has been executed. However, in some years I feel it is going to fade away. I don’t know why. I just feel it. (Let’s say like Kawada’s sixth sense in the novel.)

To conclude this review…

I found the book and the movie influential, though the movie has a lot of issues. (Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino haven’t praised them just to make them popular.) Battle Royale also inspired gaming franchises, which will keep on increasing the popularity of both the book and the movie.

I still have a lot of things to say about Battle Royale—book and the movie, as well as some of the individual characters. I won’t include all of them here. I will come up with more essays on this topic. (That’s a sort of influence, isn’t it?)