Mountains Painted with Turmeric

Lil Bahadur Chettri. Translated from the Nepali by Michael J. Hutt

Columbia University Press

Mountains Painted with Turmeric

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Pub Date: December 2007

ISBN: 9780231143561

152 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $32.00£27.00

Pub Date: December 2007

ISBN: 9780231512954

152 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99£27.00

Mountains Painted with Turmeric

Lil Bahadur Chettri. Translated from the Nepali by Michael J. Hutt

Columbia University Press

Since its publication in the late 1950s, Mountains Painted with Turmeric has struck a chord in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Nepali readers. Set in the hills of far eastern Nepal, the novel offers readers a window into the lives of the people by depicting in subtle detail the stark realities of village life.

Carefully translated from the original text, Mountains Painted with Turmeric tells the story of a peasant farmer named Dhané (which means, ironically, "wealthy one") who is struggling to provide for his wife and son and arrange the marriage of his beautiful younger sister. Unable to keep up with the financial demands of the "big men" who control his village, Dhané and his family suffer one calamity after another, and a series of quarrels with fellow villagers forces them into exile.

In haunting prose, Lil Bahadur Chettri portrays the dukha, or suffering and sorrow, endured by ordinary peasants; the exploitation of the poor by the rich and powerful; and the social conservatism that twists a community into punishing a woman for being the victim of a crime. Chettri describes the impoverishment, dispossession, and banishment of Dhané's family to expose profound divisions between those who prosper and those who are slowly stripped of their meager possessions. Yet he also conveys the warmth and intimacy of village society, from which Dhané and his family are ultimately excluded.

This is a moving story, depicting in wonderfully rich detail the round of village life: the daily farm work and chores, the gossip chain, the weekly market, the limited opportunities, the rapacious rich preying on the poor, and women's particular vulnerabilities. Reading this story could contribute to understanding why poor villagers would join the Maoist cause.

Ann Hunkins, poet and translator

Michael J. Hutt's contribution as a translator and critic of Nepali literature has been invaluable. With Mountains Painted with Turmeric, he brings to light an iconic Nepali novel: the story of sheltered villagers faced with a harsh, changing world. Hutt's rendition is sensitive and skilled. Through this translation he shares with us his deep empathy for and fine understanding of Nepali reality.

Manjushree Thapa, author of Tilled Earth and Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy

Lil Bahadur Chettri's novel is a moving example of social realism, and Michael J. Hutt's elegant translation lends a timeless, fable-like tone with a gorgeous rendering of the natural scenery.

Publishers Weekly

A moving novel of social realism.

Kirkus Reviews

A simple yet thought-provoking tale... A subtle, eye-opening look at Third World mores, and the winnowing of society's weakest links.


A real craft product, using patterns and skills honed by history, celebrating our common vision... engrossing, instructive, moving.

Donald Richie, Japan Times

Mountains Painted with Turmeric is a well-captured docudrama.

Tim Kindseth, TIME Asia

A flawless translation... [of] a moving and simple story of a universal family forced to leave home.

Kunda Dixit, Nepali Times

The translation is engaging and accessible.

Bradley Winterton, Taipei Times
Mountains Painted with Turmeric
Afterword: Nepali Critics and Basain
Web Features

About the Author

Lil Bahadur Chettri is an Indian Nepali who lives in the state of Assam in northeast India. He is the author of two additional novels, The Unfulfilled and On the Banks of the Brahmaputra.Michael J. Hutt is professor of Nepali and Himalayan Studies in the Department of the Languages and Cultures of South Asia at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London. He is the author of Modern Literary Nepali: An Introductory Reader and Unbecoming Citizens: Culture, Nationhood, and the Flight of Refugees from Bhutan.