«As all human beings, Unni and I are loners. And we accept even this, although many people reject this thought because they fear their own human loneliness. Yet only in loneliness you can learn to know yourself.»
The Mountain is young is a novel by Han Suyin, a Chinese writer who has been naturalised English, published in 1958.
Han Suyin, doctor and writer, had a very adventurous life, which led her around the world, above all between Asia and Europe. It is in these continents that most of her books are set, mainly marked by tales of emotional life of strong and, at the same time, fragile women, who search for love and independence (most of her books show evident autobiographical signs).
The story of The Mountain is young takes place in Nepal in 1956.
The main character is Anne, writer and English teacher , married to a man whom she is slowly going to stop loving and with whom she lives in India. After having gone to Kathmandu for a holiday, she decides to accept the proposal to work in an Institute for girls and to move there. Despite various initial perplexities, her husband follows her; but it is exactly there that they finally grow apart. As a matter of fact, Anne will know Unni, Chief Engineer for the construction works of a dam on the Himalaya, and will fall deeply and passionately in love with him, challenging the classical social conventions in order to live this love, and bringing into question her own way of thinking.
Yet this unconventional relationship leaves a lot of room to Anne who, very often, will find herself spending long moments alone, farer and farer from the stereotyped world of the European expats in Kathmandu and, even more, of the school where she teaches.
She starts exploring the city and the mountains, the temples, the local culture as well as her heart and her soul.
She starts enjoying the desire of loneliness and silence that she has always felt without being forced to pretend to be someone that she is not, without allowing to be invaded by others. Not that this is a simple path for a woman of 50ies, a woman who a friend defines awkwardly “rather prone to go her own way”.
It is Nepal, the land of gods, its bells, the rites in the temples, the majestic mountains, the kind people that revives her soul. It is the call of truth, which destroys all the rest, frightens and does hurt, but unmistakably prevails and you cannot do anything else but acknowledge it and follow it.
Yes, in loneliness you can learn to know yourself. And to love.
(cover picture by: View of Dhaulagiri from Ghorepani – Source Wikimedia Commons)