Nepali Times
Han Suyin's Nepal

Han Suyin, the author and physician famous for writing the novel which became the Hollywood film Many Splendoured Thing, died at age 95 last week at her home in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In Nepal, she was best known for her semi-autobiographical, almost confessional, novel The Mountain Is Young which in 1958 introduced Nepal to the world at a time when the country was just opening up. She visited Nepal for the coronation of King Mahendra and like her other novels, Han Suyin bases her plot on contemporary Kathmandu with fictitious names for actual personalities, including Fr Marshall Moran and Boris Lissanevitch.

The story centres around an English writer, Anne Ford, whose husband is a retired colonial civil servant. When her writing reaches a stalemate she decides to move to a missionary school in Kathmandu and become an English teacher.

While in Nepal, she meets and falls in love with a Nepali engineer, and begins a process of self re-discovery. The love story comes with many threads involving loyalties to tradition, and dedication to emotional demands. The novel combines the resuscitation of a writer along with her reawakening as a woman.

The Nepali character in the novel is based on a real-life Indian engineer, Vincent Ruthnaswamy, who was working on the Tribhuvan Highway and with whom Han Suyin had a relationship and later married to live with in Bangalore. The daughter of a Hong Kong father and a Belgian mother, Han Suyin became a doctor.

By describing an exact picture of the time she lived in Nepal, Han Suyin was able to introduce Nepal with The Mountain is Young which became a best-seller because of its erotic passages. After 54 years of its publication, the book still sells well at Pilgrims and Mandala book stores in Kathmandu.

If she returned to Nepal today, Han Suyin would be intrigued to find that politicians inspired by Mao Zedong won an elections and are in power in Kathmandu. The author became controversial in the 1960s for her support of Mao's policies, and for excusing the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution.

Skye McParland

1. Sniper
Thought Unni Menon was an India character, an engineer working for the construction of the Tribhuvan Rajpath, well versed with theĀ HinduĀ culture & Nepalese traditions; please get your facts straight.

I highly doubt that a couple of pages mildly referring to consummation of their affair would be the prime cause for the book to sell so well. Rather, the depiction of 'Khatmandu' during the mid 1950's and the process of the protagonist's discovery-of-self, played out so eloquently against the afore- mentioned backdrop could be the reason.

2. Jean
Unni Menon, the character in The Mountain Is Young is the fictitious name of the Indian engineer with whom Han Suyin had an affair while in Kathmandu. The question is, is he also Vincent Ruthnaswamy, the Indian colonel who later became her third husband?

3. burn and cauldron bubble
and i always thot it was about barbara adams.........

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)