Tag Archives: short stories

Read 102 of 2022. The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun by Anil Menon

The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun

Title: The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun Author: Anil Menon
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 9789391028602
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 280
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Let me just begin by saying that my mind was completely blown by this collection of wondrous, fantastical, and most unique short stories I’ve read in a while. Anil Menon’s writing is all over the place (in a very good way), and you enjoy it from the very start.

I love how each story has a beating, alive, and full heart. Menon doesn’t overlook emotions in favour of craft or the story. Each story gets its due – some more than the others, but nonetheless the setting, the characters, and the way the prose moves between surrealism and reality of the situations is what makes the reader’s jaw drop and be in awe of the writing.

I absolutely loved the title story – of a couple in the process of reorganising their home library, realizes how that impacts their reality – a story so refreshing, odd, and yet hugely satisfying. There is so much going on in this collection of short stories – there are robots, there is a Ramayan retelling unlike anything I have read before, there is betrayal, there are ancient languages, there is so much technology yet sort of mixed with the old and the medieval, and extremely playful. There is philosophy, there is a lot of wit, and of course SFF shines when it has to.

Anil Menon’s writing hits you in the face – like something good – out of the blue – something that you cannot quite put your finger on and yet you cannot stop turning the pages. Overall, I just think everyone must read this book and enjoy it to its fullest. Approach it with an open mind and enjoy the ride!

Read 73 of 2022. Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets. Translated from the Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky

Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets

Title: Lucky Breaks
Author: Yevgenia Belorusets
Translated from the Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky
Publisher: New Directions
ISBN: 978-0811229845
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 112
Source: TheBoxWalla
Rating: 4/5

Just finished reading this sometimes fantastic, and sometimes not so collection of short stories and vignettes by Ukrainian photographer, journalist, and writer. Each story in this book is centred on a woman (most of the time) in Kyiv or elsewhere in Ukraine. These stories aren’t about Putin, or his invasion. These stories are about everyday living and all about anonymous people – from a refugee to a florist to card players to readers of horoscopes, a world unto itself.

Belorusets’ writing is sometimes playful, mostly tragic, and all about surviving with some humour along the way. There are also twenty-three photographs in this collection, each telling its own story, and forming their own unique visual narrative. The translation by Eugene Ostashevsky is on-spot and extremely lucid. I was just a little miffed to not see the translator’s name on the cover. Also, as a side-note, read it online or hear it. The print is way too fine and you might end up straining your eyes like I did.

Lucky Breaks is a surreal collection of stories from a region that has come to fore, sadly for all the wrong reasons. But do read this book to know more about Ukraine, its people, and how they live and feel.

Read 33 of 2022. Sin: Stories by Wajida Tabassum. Translated from the Urdu by Reema Abbasi

Sin by Wajida Tabassum

Title: Sin: Stories
Author: Wajida Tabassum
Translated from the Urdu by Reema Abbasi
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 9789391028886
Genre: Short Stories, Women in Translation
Pages: 220
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Wajida Tabassum wrote at a time about women and their lives, when it was practically unheard of. That too of Muslim women and their lives – hidden behind veils or traditions – the lives that no one knew about or did but didn’t speak of it – she chronicled all of it in her short stories that bridge the gap between ignorance and truth.

Tabassum came from a family that had seen immense amount of wealth but by the time she turned nine, it was all squandered and both her parents were dead. Her maternal grandmother took care of her and her siblings, selling her jewelry to provide for their education and daily living. They had to go through immense hardships that she then wrote about in a short narrative titled “Meri Kahaani” (My Story).

Wajida started writing short stories at an early age. She wrote about the world she knew and did it with humour, bite, and the desperation of women in it who want a way out but do not get that exit. The book is about the spaces they inhabit and how men are all-pervasive, extremely territorial and want more and more – Tabassum covers four aspects of “sin” – lust, pride, greed, and envy. There are 18 stories in all – dissecting, humanizing, dehumanizing, rarely empowering, and mostly placing the woman at the center of dilemmas, confusion, weakness, and sacrifices.

There are also times when female agency kicks in very strong. For instance, the first story Chhinaal (Fallen Venus) is about a courtesan Gauhar Jaan and her marriage to one of her patrons, how she is treated in the family, and what happens when she decides to take some matters in her hand. There is sadness and a lingering feeling of helplessness, yet you know that Gauhar did what she wanted to, on her terms. Or even Talaq, Talaq, Talaq (Separation) where Mehru takes matters in her own hand when Nawab Sarkar forces her husband to divorce her.

Tabassum’s women are creatures of circumstance and the time they lived in. Her stories are set in Hyderabad, right after the partition, and some before. The exact timeline is not known but you get an idea as you go along reading them. Her women are full of desire, longing, craving, and also ambition – mostly these do not see the light of the day, but when they do you want to cheer out loud as a reader.

In Lungi Kurta (The Exchange), a wife gives a befitting response to a husband’s infidelity and wayward ways. Zakat (The Alms of Death) exposes the hypocrisy of nawabs (as do the other stories in the book), and how Ujala a young girl manages to do that.

Wajida Tabassum’s stories are steeped in honesty. They reflect the times she witnessed – the dynamics between the women and men across class, caste, and what society expects of them. Reema Abbasi’s translation does not make you want more as a reader. It is perfect, bringing to fore the worlds, the language (without footnotes or glossary, which is a huge relief), the nuances of living in a world full of custom and rituals, and above all doing most justice to the original.

Wajida Tabassum is a treat for readers who love the short-story form and want to experiment with new writers, thereby expanding their horizon and clearing biases, page after page.

Read 32 of 2022. After the Sun by Jonas Eika. Translated from the Danish by Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg

After the Sun by Jonas Eika

Title: After the Sun
Author: Jonas Eika
Translated from the Danish by Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg
Publisher: Riverhead Books
ISBN: 978-0593329108
Genre: Short Stories
Source: Publisher
Rating: 2/5

I was so looking forward to reading this collection of short stories but when it came to it, it left me feeling bland and without colour or excitement.

After the Sun is a collection that is supposed to push boundaries but somehow it doesn’t end up doing that. I wouldn’t call leaving the reader unsettled as pushing boundaries.

There is another story “Alvin” which perhaps was the highlight of the book for me – surreal and a parody of sorts about commodity trading. “Me, Rory, and Aurora” was another one that worked for me about a homeless girl named Casey and her being in a three-way relationship with Rory and Aurora, exploring their lives lived in a run-down flat.

The rest of the stories just didn’t work for me. The writing sparkles in places, but leaves you wanting so much more that you don’t want it after a point. The translation was on point as always, but once again if the source material read so absurdly, then you really cannot say much about the translation.

After the Sun just did not work for me on so many levels – there was nothing to it, and it also did not make me go back and perhaps reconsider what I thought of it earlier.

Read 27 of 2022. Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung. Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur

Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung

Title: Cursed Bunny
Author: Bora Chung
Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur
Publisher: Honford Star
ISBN: 978-1916277182
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

The best part about this book is that you cannot place it under any genre, and yet just to simplify it, I put it under a basic genre, that of short stories. These short stories are not just any run-of-the-mill stories though. There is so much more than what meets the eye.

Horror, magic realism, supernatural, the weird, folklore blending with the contemporary storytelling, and then of course the literary that slow slips into the prose.

Bora Chung’s stories may be bizarre but they after all only reflect the society, we live in. From the loneliness of people that need droids, to the idea of parenthood and self and ultimately how the two interweave, to the exploitation of people in a capitalistic world, each story resonates on different levels.

Yes, the stories are grotesque. Yes, the element of horror in these stories is perhaps a little more, and yes, some narratives may seem similar than most – the bottom-line being, Chung’s stories also work, because of the exquisite translation by Anton Hur.

The stories could’ve fallen flat to their face in English if it weren’t for the translator, given the landscape in which they are set. Each story is heavily nuanced, and culturally unique to the place, and that to translate to English, so readers get it all, is the work of an expert, which Anton is. No word seems out of place, nothing jarring in a sentence, and the emotions remain the same. Where I had to feel horror, I did. Where I had to feel pity, I did.

Cursed Bunny is all about placing the overlooked and the ignored at the center of things. From monsters to androids to ghosts to sometimes what comes out of us as well is exaggerated and placed in contexts for all to see, in all its glory or not.