Book Review: Tilled Earth

By Kanchan Gautam

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While searching for a new Nepali author to read I stumbled upon Manjushree Thapa through some recommendations. She is a fairly renowned author in Nepal, South East Asia and has gone on to write various short stories, essays and novels. After browsing through the collection of her essays, novels and non-fiction books, I decided to go with the short story collection Tilled Earth. I have always loved short stories and how they give us a quick glimpse into a character or characters lives and leaves the rest to our imagination.

Short stories presented in Tilled Earth were written and published in various publications throughout the years by Thapa and compiled together for this book. I found each story to be unique and the collective to be a good representation of life in Nepal.

What I found fascinating about the stories were how well she portrayed the day-to-day struggles of working class Nepalese people. Her portrayal of bureaucracies, jealousies, and familial advantage that seems to be very common in Nepal’s workforce were also accurate in my opinion. Certain stories did leave me wanting more.

Her one page prose were very poignant. The New Chemistry Teacher was one such short prose that conveyed much more than the few paragraphs that were on paper. One could sense the fear and anxiety in the chemistry teacher living in a “man’s land” as a rape victim. Similarly, Heera Maharjan Looses His Way, was another micro-story that I found to be quiet profound; showing us how Kathmandu has grown exponentially in the last few decades and for natives or non-natives alike it can seem like a whole another place at times.

I found myself drawn to her stories and kept re-reading a page here and there or a whole story even after I had finished reading them. Her stories are haunting and leave you with a sense of melancholy and despair. Certain stories in my opinion were better than others however as a whole I did enjoy reading the book. If you are looking for a light and warm stories I would stay away from Tilled Earth. If you want to read a book that will keep you reeling for a week afterwards and keep you coming back to re-read, this is your book!

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