“Footsteps of Socrates (Sukaraatka Paailaa)” by Govinda Prasad Bhattarai is a groundbreaking achievement in the realm of Nepali novels. It not only serves as a remarkable specimen of Nepali war literature but also acts as a profound reflection of the pain and suffering endured during the relentless revolution of the past decade. The novel delves deep into philosophical inquiries, providing compelling answers to profound questions such as the meaning of life and the nature of truth.
As we journey through the pages of this novel, we find ourselves unable to read it impartially. The words flow with life, immersing us in every situation. Inevitably, we undergo a transformative experience, assuming the role of new characters and recognizing ourselves within the unfolding events.
Abhi Subedi, in his critique of the novel, draws a comparison to Naipaul’s “A Bend in the River.” He notes that Govinda skillfully blurs the lines between history and fiction, utilizing historical events such as crossfire incidents in various districts, curfews, agitations in Kathmandu, and the tragic deaths of Nepalis in Iraq, which are seamlessly woven into the narrative. This postmodern writing technique employed by the author exemplifies his literary prowess, making the novel a potential masterpiece in its own right.
The novel takes root in a small village called Narfok, the birthplace of the protagonist, Ananta. Having recently completed his bachelor’s degree in English, Ananta finds himself at a crossroads due to the political instability plaguing the country. Frustrated and disillusioned, he embarks on a journey to Kathmandu.
In an effort to merge ancient and modern philosophies, the writer introduces Sukarat, a professor from Tribhuvan University, as a character who gradually elevates Ananta’s intellectual horizons through his philosophical discourse. However, Ananta finds himself entangled in numerous conflicts. Unemployment and academic failure prevent him from returning home. Tragedy strikes again when his girlfriend, Purnima, falls victim to crossfire near his village as a result of her revolutionary involvement. Ananta is now trapped amidst death, despair, and apprehension. Contemplating escape from this oppressive world, he contemplates suicide, but his actions remain ambiguous.
Here, the writer skillfully employs his postmodern writing technique, encapsulated by the term “unsettled” or “Anirdharan.” He successfully creates a compelling narrative gap, inviting readers to participate in further interpretation and creation. Thus, the central theme of the novel emerges: individual freedom, personal choices, and the acceptance of multiple perspectives. Through the character of Sukarat, the writer explores the essence and limitations of individual existence, the interplay of freedom and responsibility within the boundaries of truth, life, and death