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Mohan Koirala (b. 1926) As one of Nepali literature's most respected and enduring poets, Koirala has been writing for more than forty years, but his poetry continues to evolve and change, adopting new styles and addressing new themes. He has wielded considerable influence over poets contemporary with him and is revered by younger writers. Yet it is extremely difficult to identify him with any particular school of modern Nepali literature, be it romanticism , dimensionalism, or the "contemporary" movement. Although Koirala has made his own important contribution to each of these and has been influenced by them in turn, Subedfs comment remains true: "Koirala is of his own kind" (Subed! 1970, 68). Mohan Koirala was born in 1926 into a comparatively prosperous Kathmandu family. His father fell on hard times, however, and because college fees could no longer be afforded, Koirala was obliged to break off his college education before it was complete. As a young man, he took up a variety of jobs in various areas of Nepal, working for some time as a schoolmaster in the town of Hetauda and latterly for the Transport Corporation in Kathmandu. In 1974, in recognition of his contribution to Nepali literature, he was made a member of the Royal Nepal Academy, a post that reached the end of its five-year term in 1979 and was not subsequently renewed. Since then, Koirala has lived with his family (he has five children) in their simple home in a quarter of Kathmandu known as Dill!Bazaar. The first poem Mohan Koirala admits to having written1 is "Remembering as I Go" (Jdndd-Jdndai Samjhera), composed in 1946 when he w 1. Koirala has hinted at the existence of a few early metrical poems. These are unpublished and are likely (o remain so. 82 MOHAN KOIRALA 83 twenty years old and published in 1953. According to Ishwar Baral, the editor of Koirala's first volume of collected verse, Koirala was first persuaded to try his hand at writingby his younger brother, Shankar, now a well-known novelist. Mohan, however, preferred to compose poetry, considering himself a poor storyteller (M. Koirala 1973, i). It is generally accepted, and acknowledged by the poet himself, that his early compositions were inspired by the example set by Devkota and by contemporaries such as Siddhicharan Shreshtha, arid Balkrishna Sama. Indeed, Koirala grew up at a time when these poets were household names, at least among the educated class of the capital. Inspired by men who are still regarded as monumental figures in the history of Nepali literature, Mohan Koirala began to write, and his poems appeared alongside theirs in journals such as Sharada, Indrmi (Rainbow), and Pragati (Progress). From the beginning, it was clear that his poetry possessed its own unique qualities. Although "Remembering as I Go" is quite obviously a nostalgic evocation of youth, an echo of Wordsworthian sentimentssimilar to Devkota's "Childhood," its theme is actually less personal than it seems. The poem's nostalgic sentimentsseem to articulate the consciousness that many Kathrnandu residents retain of their families' origins in the rural hill regions. Other early poems address similar themes in a tone that is essentiallyromantic, but many convey an additional message. "I Remember" (Ma Samjhanchu) contains references to a desire for political change (which was an increasinglypowerful force during Koirala's youth). Similarly, "An Introduction to the Land" (Deshko Parichaya) describes Nepal on the eve of the Ranas' downfall. Baral (in M. Koirala 1973, i) also discerns the influence of Rimal's "A Mother's Dream" in "I Love Your Daughter" (Ma Timro Chorilai Prem Garchu) because both poems share the theme of awaiting the arrival of a person who will in some way improve the quality of life. All of Koirala's published works are written in free verse. He explained his preference for this genre, which has predominated in Nepali verse since the 1950s, to Uttam Kunwar: Although it appears to be small, a cup of water can contain the whole of the sky. This is the capacity of prose poetry. . . . It can reflect the most subtle human feelings. People do not converse in rneter, or in verse, so why should we make our literature artificial and contrived by introducing meter into it? (Kunwar, 1966, 110) Comment on social or political issues, an important element of Koirala 's poetry, is overt in his early poems but less so in his later works. "The Martyrs" (Shahid) looks back in anger at the execution of three political agitators...


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