Anand, Mulk Raj; Saros Cowasjee (ed.);
Selected Short Stories
Penguin Books, 2006, 262 pages
ISBN 0143062107, 9780143062103
topics: | fiction-short | india
In his half-humorous and half-ironic way, Anand draws our attention to the plight of the marginalized, the poor and the illiterate, and penetrates their innermost feelings and emotions. Straightforward, unpretentious and expertly crafted, these unforgettable vignettes of life in twentieth-century India are sure to haunt the reader long after the book has been put down."
1. The lost child. 2. The barber's trade union. 3. Duty. 4. The liar. 5. The Maharaja and the tortoise. 6. A rumour. 7. A pair of Mustachios. 8. The Cobbler and the machine. 9. A confession. 10. A promoter of quarrels. 11. Lullaby. 12. The terrorist. 13. A Idyll. 14. Lottery. 15. Mahadev and Parvati. 16. The thief. 17. Professor Cheeta. 18. The tractor and the corn Goddess. 19. The man whose name did not appear in the census. 20. A village idyll. 21. The Hangman's strike. 22. The signature. 23. The parrot in the cage. 24. The man who loved monkeys more than human beings. 25. Reflections on the golden bed. 26. 'Things have a way of working out'. 27. The gold watch. 28. Old Bapu. 29. The Tamarind tree. 30. Lajwanti. 31. A dog's life. 32. Fear of fear. [+ glossary]
from http://www.hindu.com/lr/2006/08/06/stories/2006080600310600.htm Many of these stories portray life in the early 20th century but they still show familiar faces — grinding poverty and exploitation. The narrator in "The Cobbler and the Machine" is a child who thinks he is helping the cobbler by encouraging him to buy a machine. But the sequence of events puts the old man in bondage to a merchant and ultimately leads to his death. The description of the old man working on the machine leads to reflections of modern day sweatshops. Again mirroring our times is "The Beggar Woman". A jobless middle-class man has been long watching a beggar woman on the road. He cannot understand how he can have sexual fantasies about the woman, dirty as she is. Realising that she has no milk to feed her child, he steals from his home to give her food. When the servant is blamed and thrown out, he keeps quiet. Possibly the most haunting story is "Lullaby". Her baby is very ill but the worker in a jute factory cannot afford to stop working, even to take the child to a doctor. The lullaby she sings is juxtaposed against the machine's noise as the child dies. "The Barber's Trade Union" is probably the lightest story in this collection. Taunted and abused by the higher caste people for daring to dress differently, Chandu the barber goes on a strike. And when the village elders threaten to bring in a barber from a nearby village, he strikes first — forming a union of barbers from all the nearby villages thus forcing the villagers to take back their words. Anand makes his point — about the importance of trade unions — without hitting the reader over the head with it. In fact, apart from the title, the word `trade union' is mentioned only in the last line. Anand's characteristic pungent gaalis can be seen liberally sprinkled over many of the stories. But translated into staid English, it just doesn't sound as shocking.
Mulk Raj Anand was born in Peshawar in 1905 and educated at the universities of Punjab and London. After earning his PhD in Philosophy in 1929, Anand began writing for T.S. Eliot`s magazine Criterion as well as books on cooking and art. Recognition came with the publication of his first two novels, Untouchable and Coolie . These were followed by a succession of novels, including his well-known trilogy The Village (1939), Across the Black Waters (1940) and The Sword and the Sickle (1942). By the time he returned to India in 1946, he was easily the best-known Indian writer abroad.