In a sultry evening in Delhi, here I am, reread-ing Mulk Raj Anand—from time to time kicking in the air to ward off aedes aegypti. For most of us Indians, the history of reading is in two parts. If you are not educated in a public school, you have to wait until you have learnt enough English to begin reading books in English, while you read—or you are read to—in your mother tongue at a very early age.
For a reader uninitiated in the tradition of the short story in the Punjabi language Slice of Life offers a rich harvest of examples of writings from within this tradition. The stories selected, translated into English by Rana Nayar, are arranged in chronological order and range across the entire span of the twentieth century.
It appears that the editors of this anthology of English translation—Bh. Krsihnamurti, a linguistics man and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hyderabad, and C. Vijayashree, Professor of English at Osmania University—did not have much of a choice. They have translated a Telugu anthology put together by Vakati Panduranga Rao and Vedagiri Rambabu after a three-day workshop in 1997.
The modernist movement (navya) in Kannada literature was significant in many ways. The navya writers created an idiom which even to this day resonates with the many new twists that came into the “being” of a literary work. The idiom of the navya writers was multi-dimensional and accommodated varied experiences and diverse ideas.
Emergence of the dalit theatre is consid- ered as one of the prime aspects of the post-independence Marathi theatre. Marathi theatre which was centered around the middle-class sensibility till then, witnessed for the first time, the low-born, the underdogs of the society, giving vent to the unprecedented humiliation and persecution that they were subjected to, down the centuries.
Prarambh is a successful blend of history and fiction: a hi-story of the beginnings of Mumbai. The environment of the early 1800s is authentically depicted, the characters that are both real and fictional match quite well, and the story runs both as fact and fiction blended. The National Book Trust of India must be thanked and congratulated for bringing it out in English for the benefit of not only the non-Marathi Indian readers but also the international readers who will be able to get important insights into and information about the social-cultural-business renaissance that gave its initial shape to the internationally significant city, Mumbai.
Ever since the translation of indigenous literature, mainly into English, was initiated almost a decade ago, it has triggered off reams of publications, and gradually evolved into a specific genre. Obviously, this process has been a tremendous success as publishing houses of renown have made forays into this sphere, though often glossing over prominent credits to the key player, i.e. the translator.
A collage, a photo frame, a diary! No, none of these define the flavour of the book. The memoirs are spun and crafted in a beautiful Tea-Cozy, much to Shaukat Kaifi’s liking, keeping the incidents alive and warm. The title is suggestive of a collection of dates and events, people and places to construct and deconstruct a whole life. The following narrative offers a mirror image of her time, for the generations ahead. Acquiring a more autobiographical element, Shaukat begins from the beginning and tells her own story sequentially.
In an era dominated by prose and the prosaic, poetry is a saving grace. This is especially so, when—trudging through the turbulence of times—it is able to ‘sponge-in’ the world into words, soak them with the possibilities and probabilities of humane existence without being superficial, hysterical or partisan about it.
In an era dominated by prose and the prosaic, poetry is a saving grace. This is especially so, when—trudging through the turbulence of times—it is able to ‘sponge-in’ the world into words, soak them with the possibilities and probabilities of humane existence without being superficial, hysterical or partisan about it. This cognitive-aesthetic soaking in of life into words through poetry is, however, a hugely demanding and humbling task.
As the Hindi short story spills beyond its patriarchal enclosures, rebellious fervour gives way to a self-reflexive and intellectually calibrated mode of storytelling. There are no easy passionate outbursts or relentless bouts of ideological sloganeering. The young breed of woman Hindi writers, particularly of the 90s, sustain the credo of protest set into motion by an earlier generation of writers, through a critical resurrection of the issues that were once thought to have been sufficiently clinched in favour of the woman. Old denouements inspire new dialogic take-offs.
Krishna Sobti’s Shabdon Ke Aalok Mein is a book of miscellany that evolves as a continuous narrative of her ever-evolving personality—both as a writer and as an individual. Woven around memory and nostalgia, travel fragments and everyday associations, dialogic-monologues and interviews, creative-critical reflections/impressions and academic interactions, this narrative tends to foreground Sobti the woman, her milieu and some of the literary moments she has lived through in the near past.
Readers of short fiction will be happy to welcome this new anthology. I enjoyed reading the stories as they are well selected and translated. Writers range from the end of the nineteenth (Rajsekhar Basu, 1880) to the middle of the nineteenth century (Suchitra Bhattacharya, 1950) and include some of the best-known artists of the Bangla language.
In the sixties Sunil Gangopadhyay, already a well-known poet, wrote his first two novels: Jubak Jubati and Atma Prakash, spearheading a movement that brought the Bengali novel out of the shadows of romance and cautious social comment to the glare of harsh introspection and relentless probing into the tensions of a post-Independence urban reality.
Vilas Sarang reminds me of O.V. Vijayan of Malayalam, although, unlike Vijayan, he is a poet, apart from being a fiction writer and critic who writes in Marathi and in English. Vijayan’s stories of the modernist period were mostly allegories, parables, stories with a sort of cast-iron frame into which human situations or predicaments were set, as if following some kind of predestined design. The modernists are well-known for their philosophical predilections, notably confined to certain schools of the West.
Abraham Eraly has selected and transcribed a collection of legends from Kottarathil Sankunni’s Aithihyamala which is an eight volume work published between 1909 and 1934. The translation of the chosen stories is easy and lucid, with no embellishment. Eraly has the confidence of someone who understands the culture and the varieties of communities which integrate in the fabric or canvas of daily interaction.
M.Mukundan is the story-teller par excellence in contemporary writing in Malayalam. His texts seldom resist reading like those of Anand or O.V. Vijayan often do. He takes the reader into confidence and easily carries him/her along the narrative. Still he does not repeat himself like many popular authors do: he keeps experimenting both with themes and structures, likes to play with space and time and mix reality and fantasy in different measures.
Sivasankari is a well-known Tamil writer who is exceptionally sensitive to the issues that confront contemporary society. Her concerns get reflected in The Betrayal and Other Stories, a collection of dexterously woven tales with universal themes, ordinary characters and everyday incidents. This anthology contains a kuru novel (a short novel/a long story) and fifteen short stories.
This collection of ten stories is a testimony to Bama’s skills and intent as a writer. Anecdotal in nature, the stories take you almost effortlessly into the lived lives of dalit parayars in Tamilnadu. This is a world that is in the process of change, where the dalits are learning to challenge the hegemonic hold of the landowning castes on them.