Govinda Raj Bhattarai(Nepali-गोविन्दराज भट्टराई) (27 July 1953 AD) is a Nepalese novelist, essayist, literary critic, linguist and translation consultant. Though Professor of English by profession (Tribhuvan University, Nepal), Bhattarai loves and enjoys creative writing more than anything else. His contribution in reshaping and reforming Nepalese literature is well-acknowledged. A Postmodernist and Diasporist, Bhattarai has widely published on various social, cultural, educational and literary issues in the country. So far as his literary accomplishments are concerned, there are novels, essay anthologies and several works on criticism and translation to his credit both in Nepali and English.
Govinda Raj Bhattarai was born as the third son of Pandit Teka Nath Bhattarai and Mandoddara Bhattarai on 27 July 1953(12 Shrawan, 2010 B. S.) in the district of Taplejung in the eastern part of Nepal. As his family moved from Taplejung to Paanchthar and then to Jhapa, his early schooling took place in all these three eastern hilly districts of Nepal. In the course of pursuing higher education, he moved to Kathmandu where he earned his Master’s Degree in English and English Education both and then traveled to Hyderabad in India where he accomplished PhD in Translation Studies. He happens to be the first Nepalese scholar to complete his PhD in Translation Studies from Nepal. A Professor of English, Bhattarai teaches Translation Studies and English Literature at the Department of English Education, Tribhuvan University.He gives rest of his time for literature and linguistics. His family consists of his wife – Dr. Anjana Bhattarai and two daughters Sewa and Richa. Whereas Dr. Anjana is an Associate Professor in the same department where her husband teaches, Richa and Sewa spend their times in creative writings which they have acquired as a legacy from their father.
Bhattarai loves and enjoys creative writing more than anything else. His career as a creative writer began when he was in his early twenties. He published his first work मुगलान (Muglan) in 1975 while he was in his early twenties. His other fictions include मणिपुरको चिठ्ठी (Letter From Manipur), सुकरातको पाइला (Socrates’ Footsteps) and सुकरातको डायरी (Socrates’ Diary). Whereas मुगलान(Muglan) and सुकरातको पाइला (Socrates’ Footsteps) have already been rendered into English, सुकरातको डायरी (Socrates’ Dairy)is in the process of rendition.
Though he prefers to be addressed as a creative writer, he is known as ‘a mild critic’ and is thus often blamed for promoting 'mediocre literature'. He has written forewords to hundreds of novels and anthologies of poetry and stories, biographies and other literary and non-literary works. His works on criticism comprise काव्यिक आन्दोलनको परिचय (Introduction to Poetic Revolution), आख्यानको उतरआधुनिक पर्याबलोकन (Postmodern Study of Fiction), पश्चिमी बलेंसीका बाछिटा (Drops of Western Eaves), उतरआधुनिक ऐना(Postmodern Mirror), उतरआधुनिक विमर्श (Postmodern Discourse) and समयबोध र उतरआधुनिकता (Time Consciousness and Postmodernism).
Reading and writing are his passion and therefore he cannot stay without writing wherever he goes and whatever state he is. He has had literary pilgrimages from Mechi to Mahakali in Nepal and several countries of Asia, Europe and America. The countries he has so far traveled are: India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Greece, USA, UK, Thailand, Russia, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, France and Qatar. All his literary voyages and activities have given birth to several anthologies of essays and travelogues such as एक्लैएक्लैएक्लै(Alone-Alone and Alone), विश्वबिधालयमा अग्निपुजा (Fire-worship in University), संगै बसौं यो रात (Let us Live Together This Night), गोधुलीमा दश पाइला (Ten Steps in Twilight) and recently मिर्मिरेमा दस पाइला (Ten Steps in Dawn).
The first Nepalese scholar to accomplish PhD in Translation Studies, Bhattarai has translated several literary and non-literary works from English to Nepali and vice versa. His major translation works include: Selected Stories from Nepal, Selected Nepali Essays, Stories of Conflict and War, Declaration of New Gods', Gandhi and Great Minds on India.
Bhattarai has also edited a number of academic and literary journals.
Muglan, the first novel by Govinda Raj Bhattarai is a heartrending tale of illiterate and naive Nepalese youths who are tricked to work as bondage laborers in Bhutan while in search of better future in India.It is a saga of sorrow owing to lack of education and consciousness; there is cruelty of the heartless and extreme of exploitation. The major theme is the dictatorship of the state and discrimination suffered by the immigrant Nepalese. Thule and Satar, the major characters represent thousands of poor, innocent and illiterate Nepali youths who flee their homes every year with the dream of better quality of life but their dreams get shattered in the hands of frauds and tyrants in the alien land. Various well known authors and critics like Parijat and Michael Hutt have spent words to praise the magic the twenty-one-year-old author cast on the audience in those days and even now.For Parijat, Muglan is “the second novel I have read in a single breath, within a decade. Unless the language, style, presentation is good, it becomes difficult to read any literature”. Muglan, however, is criticized for being too pessimistic in tone and exaggerating the then existing circumstances. Muglan has been rendered into English from Nepali by Lekhnath Sharma Pathak.
Socrates’ Footsteps is the English translation of Govinda Raj Bhattarai’s masterpiece Sukaratka Paila(सुकरातका पाईला ) into English. Socrates’ Footsteps is a major representation of war literature from Nepal; it is set against the time when Nepal was undergoing the most devastating war led by Maoists. The novel reveals how war creates mere destruction and division not merely of physical kind but also of psychological and spiritual. Socrates, a historical character represents here a university professor and Ananta, the central character, represents Nepalese youth who becomes the victim of war. The novel is immensely philosophical and attempts to raise several metaphysical questions on life, death, truth etc. The novel exploits history as fiction and appears to revolve around the theme of war, terror, suicide, romance and academia at surface level, however at deeper level Bhattarai takes the readers even higher, to contemplate on the question of life and death and consciousness. This novel is as infamous as famous again for dealing with the issue of suicide. The novel has been translated from Nepali into English by Bal Ram Adhikari.
Socrates’ Diary (सुकरातको डायरी) is Govinda Raj Bhattarai’s sequel to his previous fiction Socrates’ Footsteps. Socrates’ Diary is a fiction about fiction and therefore technically a better label would be ‘metafiction’ or a ‘poimenon’. Bhattarai has used a number of post-modern devices to give his thought a concrete shape such as pastiche, intertexuality, authorial intrusion, historiographic metafiction, technoculture, hyperreality, magical realism, farce, melodrama etc. At surface level, Socrates Diary appears to be a narrative of a university professor instructing his student the principles and practices of fiction writing but at deeper level it turns out to be mere play of signs, farcical. Socrates represents fictional Professor Sharma of Nepal who is very conventional and sticks to the realist tradition which ultimately fails to bring about the author inside Ananata, the major character of the novel. Coleridge’s dictum “There is no great art without strangeness” proves true to this artistic. Unlike other novels Socrates’ Diary puzzles the readers with travelogue, poetry, dialogue, diary, exercises, references, appendices, interviews, online conversations and its reviews within the novel. Bhattarai has shown his creative altitude with a stylistically most complicated creation so far. It is not without criticism either. Socrates Diary is perceived as too complex a work which is of course beyond the reach of ordinary readers. The novel is being translated into English.