Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tell me a Long, Long Story: Edited by Mini Krishnan: review

Tell me a Long, Long Story: Edited by Mini Krishnan
-Review by Divya Dubey

[Published by India Today, Sep 29, 2017:]

Mini Krishnan, the editor of Tell Me a Long, Long Story, explains in the preface how the anthology came into existence. While she was putting together translations of some novellas from certain Indian regional languages for Oxford University Press, she came across some stories that were neither short enough to be included in short-story collections nor long enough to be published independently.  They were in the range of about 8000 to 20,000 word
s. Since she felt they were ‘exceptional pieces of fiction’, she decided to compile them ‘as part of a larger collection’.

Tell Me a Long, Long Story is therefore a compilation of twelve such stories translated from the original Indian languages, including Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Only one story, Chetan Raj Shrestha’s ‘The King’s Harvest’ doesn’t seem to be a translation. Most of the original authors as well as translators are well-established names (from Mahasweta Devi to Pratik Kanjilal to J Devika, Shanta Gokhale and others) and the stories, naturally, carry the legacy of the Indian classics forward.

Mini Krishnan
Krishnan’s preface elucidates the context in some detail: ‘My immense and astounding country […] has a god beneath every stone,’ she says. ‘This Truth and the myriad lesser truths of India present a formidable challenge to anyone who sets out to study the essence of the country, the essence that drives its creativity and informs its fiction.’ Then she proceeds with an account of Indian history, battles lost and won against foreign raiders and the consequent influences of alien people, cultures and languages upon the country’s own literature and culture. The selections in here are a rich example of these.

Writers have raised their voices against social evils right from the beginning. Like termites issues of caste discrimination, sexism, misogyny, illiteracy and superstition, patriarchy and insensitivity among myriad others continue to afflict the society even today. Some of the stories depicting these are more hard-hitting than the others. For instance, Shripad Narayan Pendse’s ‘Jumman’ (trans. By Shanta Gokhale) or Ismat Chughtai’s ‘Lingering Fragrance’ (trans. By
Tahira Naqvi). Some are unique and evocative of the realm of magic and the supernatural. For instance, KR Meera’s The Deepest Blue, and Kamalakanta Mohapatra’s ‘The Witch’.  Bolwar Mahamad Kuni’s ‘Period of Mourning’ also deserves a special mention as a heart-wrenching piece.

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