(Source: The Hindu, Sunday, July 29, 2001)
The autobiography of Nepali politician and sometime Prime Minister B.P. Koirala is a vivid account of personal and social turmoil and of exile and rebellion that provides acute insights into the history and politics of the 20th Century. Formally released in New Delhi in April, this book’s compelling themes have been made more poignant by the recent happenings in the Kathmandu palace, says historian RAMACHANDRA GUHA.
“EVERY man’s life,” remarked Dr. Johnson, “should be best written by himself”. Strangely, Johnson did not carry out his own injunction, for it was another pen, that of James Boswell, that set out for posterity the main contours of his life.
One must not unduly regret Johnson’s failure. For one thing, it allowed Boswell to write what is still the most widely read of all biographies. For another, the autobiography is the most perilous of literary forms. As the French scholar Andr Maurois pointed out many years ago, it is marked by a “deliberate forgetfulness”, a willed failure to remember failure, a desire to omit from one’s authorised account events that were unpleasant or that might undermine one’s reputation. The autobiography, writes Maurois, is a genre marked by a lack of sincerity. It forgets and it rationalises. It gives order and retrospective coherence to decisions made ad hoc or more-or-less on the spot. (more…)
(Source: August 8, 1982 Amrit Bazar Patrika, Calcutta (Kolkata))
Devastatingly handsome. Tall and lean, he has an easy grace in his movements, and even more graceful is his courtesy, for he proffers his hand and says, “I’m Koirala!’ Yes, of course, I mumble and follow him into a large room where few cane chairs are strewn about, and there is a big bedstead with a sheet on it for many people to sit on.
?�ea comes in small cheap glasses, and I remember that every other politician in town had served tea in expensive crockery. Koirala was a sickman, with a permament hoarseness in the voice, and it was clear, long conversation tired him, the vocal chords in particular. But for the four hours or so that I talked to him, on two days on the second, he wore Nepalese dress he never sought rest, thought our conversation was interrupted quite a few times by people visiting him. Not all, it seemed to me, were political workers, but he had time for everybody, and even when impatient, was never angry or imperious like some people we have seen nearer home.
When Tirthankar Mukherjee met Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala (BP to his friends) they close to talk of things not immediately political. What were this elder statesman’s life’s lessons? Why are dreams never fulfilled? What still impels a man never to give up? How can one not be frustrated when every single belief of one’s crumbles? Extracts from their long conversation follow.