The Greatest Tamil Stories Ever Told, an eclectic collection of 30 stories, features eminent writers who are common household names and current favourites, dating from the 1930s to today. The editor Sujatha Vijayaraghavan’s unhurried indulgence in short stories by Thamizh writers and an earlier venture of reading more than 800 stories in three months’ time for her dance project came to fruition in compiling this edition, we infer from the foreword.
‘Like a flute hollowed out of a piece of bone or bamboo, a story is fashioned out of any existential circumstance that comes to a storyteller’s mind. A theme is blown through it, the sound shaped and modulated to reach the listener’s ear,’ a crisp introduction by Vasantha Surya that lays emphasis on how the stories and articles in Tamil magazines brought a paradigm shift in the thought process over years begins with these beautiful lines.
The anthology with a plethora of themes begins on a buoyant note with SVV’s ‘A Village Experience’. Subramania Bharati’s ‘The Story of a Crow Learning Prosody’ and Kalki’s ‘The Governor’s Visit’ on high-flying ambition and empty high headedness are delectably satirical. What would you do if you met God on the street? Pudhumaipittan’s story ‘God and Kandasami Pillai’ dazzles with wit and irony in an attempt to answer. Mauni’s ‘The Family Chariot’ and CS Chellappa’s ‘The Door Closes’ are meditations on loss, that of a beloved family member and of freedom respectively. Men and women nimble footed in love, afflicted with separation pangs find a place in stories by Ki Ra and Ashokamitran. While the former’s story is suffused with the spirit of ‘Karisal Bhoomi’, the latter’s story is set in Chennai.