Reviews of The Red Sun from Rishikesh Shah

More than a decade ago Mr. Bharat Jangam Proved his talent as a novelist by writing a novel in Nepali called "Kalo Surya" which has been subsequently translated into English (The Black Sun) and several other languages including Russian and Chinese. The novel exposed rather the core of Nepal's partyless panchyat systems through the simple method of the narrator's apparently well-meaning and innocent conversation with persons in different walks of life. Without giving even the panchyat regime any excuse to ban it, 'Kalo Surya" created quite a stir among the Nepali reading public by arousing their ire and conscience against the unprecedented growth of hypocrisy, corruption and immorality in Nepali society.

In writing this novel " Rato Gham" (The Red Sun) Mr. Jangam has once again followed the same method of direct narration or monologue in storytelling. This time the theme is of course different and all the more fascinating to its readers life, morals and manners in communist China with a focus on their repercussions on the indigenous people of the so-called autonomous region of Tibet. The story opens with a scintillating account of the inquisitive narrator standing at a point a little beyond the friendship bridge at Liping, Kodari and looking up at freshly pointed houses shining in their whitish splendor in the township of Khasa (Zhangmus) on the Tibetan side. The novel fittingly ends with a description of the narrator's dreary and leisurely trek from Kodari up and down the steep mountain gorges and across the windswept plain and snow deserts to Lhasa at the roof of the world constantly evoking in the novelist's mind historical memories of Nepal's association with the area and its people.

Meanwhile the novelist had in the intervening period already visited the famed and flourishing Chinese cities and metropolises of Guangzhou (Canton), Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Beijing approaching them from the British crown colony of Hong Kong on the outskirts of the Chinese mainland. He had also in due course a rich and rewarding first-hand experience from thrilling encounters and dubious dealings with the Chinese people of various trades and professions under different circumstances. Unlike other countries in the world, Nepal has no sizable 'Han Chinese' minority as a permanent component of its population. As a result, Nepali in general have had little or no opportunity for getting to know and understand the Chinese people at an unofficial and popular level. If this novel will enable Nepali readers to share vicariously the author's experience with the Chinese, it will also provide the non-Nepali readers an insight into the Chinese ways and sensibilities as perceived by a creative young Nepali literature.

In the end, I wonder whether the novelist has any message for his readers. The subtle hint I for one have been able to deduce is that the first flush of victory and exultation brought about by China's 1949 revolution may prove to be after all short-lived and age-old historical conditions and deeply ingrained habits of thought may prompt that society to move one day in a different direction, along the path of ancient wisdom as dictated by the principles of non-violence, fellow feeling and good neighborliness.

This is further highlighted by the author with a sharp focus on the guidelines bequeathed to posterity on an inscribed tablet by Libin, who had been esteemed as the designer and builder of the watershed management in areas adjacent to Chengdu. In the plaque, Libin, talk about the wisdom of canalizing the devastating force of the mighty and irresistible river's mainstream by diverting it in numerous channels for irrigation and other constructive purposes wherever and whenever possible. The novelist rightly implies from Libin's teaching that an excessive concentration of political and economic power is likely to act as a blind force with destructive consequences, whereas reasonable delegation of authority to the lower levels of government and society may be conducive to the greater good of mankind. 
I hope that the readers will receive this novel with the same spirit of welcome and enthusiasm as they received the novelist's earlier works.

Rishikesh Shah
Kathmandu, Nepal.
23rd March 1993.