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This 1950s classic of Nepali literature, published in the United States for the first time, traces with great simplicity the life of a family in a traditional village.

Dhané Basnet is a farmer with a wife and three-year-old son. His desire is a universal one: He only “wants to burst through the net of his money problems and bring his little family happiness and the cool shade of peace.” But things in his life suddenly, heartbreakingly, start to go wrong. He “leases” a buffalo and is obligated to pay interest on it every month. While Dhané confidently “expected to profit from the buffalo in every way,” the buffalo’s calf is stillborn and Dhané quickly falls behind in his payments. He’s then rescued by the well-to-do Nandé, who lends him money to buy oxen and rents him land on which to plant his crops, but he makes Dhané put up his own house and land as collateral on this loan. More disaster strikes when Nandé’s spoiled son Sané diverts water from the fields Dhané hopes to plant and then in an act of petty revenge lets his water buffalo trample the seedlings. In a rage Dhané kills the water buffalo and is assessed a fine far beyond his capacity to pay. His life continues to spiral out of control when his young sister Jhuma innocently flirts with and is later raped by a soldier, an outsider to the community, bringing shame on the family. Dhané eventually undergoes a radical transformation—“having suffered so many blows of fate, he had become hard”—and by the end he and his family lose their house and land and are forced out of the village, not knowing where the next stage of their journey will take them.

A moving novel of social realism.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-231-14356-1
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2007