Manto: Selected Stories by Sadat Hasan Manto [Book Review]

Manto by Sadat.jpgTitle : Manto: Selected Stories

Author : Sadat Hasan Manto

ISBN : 9788184000498

Publisher : Random House

Genre : Short Stories

Pages : 130

Source : Self

Rating : 4 stars

 

 

For those who don’t know, Saadat Hasan “Manto”, who wrote originally in Urdu, is considered as the greatest short story writer of the Indian subcontinent and he retains this position today even after 100 years of his birth.

The translation for this group of stories is done by the contemporary author Aatish Taseer who starts with a detailed introduction explaining what led him to start this work of translation.

The book has some famous stories (such as ‘Toba Tek Singh’) while others are less known (such as ‘For Freedom’s that I liked the most).

Most of the stories are set at Bombay (where Saadat lived before leaving for Pakistan) and describes the era of Independence struggle, Hindu Muslim riots and spread of communalism, Partition and its aftermath and India-Pakistan War.

Though as it is true for every translated work, you can easily make out that the essence has been lost but Taseer has done a phenomenal job in some stories like For Freedom and My Name is Radha.

Manto was a bold and upfront writer and never shied away from portraying sex, passion and infidelity with a slight touch of eroticism and no wonder he was tried for 5 times for obscenity in his works.

The stories are short (10-30 pages) and will give you a fair amount of insight about the daily life and struggle of our countrymen during one of the most phenomenal yet tragic time in the Indian History.
Highly recommended. Buy a copy for yourself at Amazon yourself

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote [Book Review]

Breakfast at Tiffany's Trumen Capote.jpegTitle : Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Author : Truman Capote

ISBN : 9780679745655

Publisher : Vintage Books

Genre : Short stories, Contemporary

Pages : 142

Source : Self

Rating : 4 stars

 

 

 

Holly Golightly is glamorous, fashionable and quirky. She is a party-freak with her apartment always buzzing with life, glamour, millionaires, high profiles and gangsters. She has been a child bride (Sorry for the spoiler here) and has eloped and now living on her own terms, taking life one day at a time. Golightly has a complex character- she is cruel but she loves madly, she seems as if she doesn’t care but she is generous, compassionate and a good friend. But this carefree attitude and nonchalance take its toll on her when she gets involved in a major crime unintentionally and her life changes. This is the story of Golightly, her dreams for Tiffant, her hopes even in the most challenging circumstances and her lifestyle which raises many eyebrows, narrated by her friend and her neighbor.

Audry Hepburn has already done a phenomenal job playing the character in the movie and though I haven’t seen the movie I can only wonder how amazingly and effortlessly she must have played this role.

This edition also contains three other short stories :-

1. House of Flowers- Ottilie is illiterate and an orphan. But she is happy because she has friends- Baby and Rosita, they go out together, have wine and enjoy their good time. But Ottilie’s life changes when she is lured in love by a rural rusty masculine man Royal Bonaparte and she decides to marry him even after being reprimanded by her friends. Though Royal lover her, her life changes after marriage. Royal’s grandmother is a senile, evil lady who keeps scolding her and whose idea of humor is pinching her hard on her skin while she is not alert. To make things work, she is even around to haunt her and keep a watch on her after she dies. Baby and Rosita find this suffering unacceptable and they offer Ottilie a chance to escape. Now Ottilie has to decide which road to take- love or freedom

2. A Diamond Guitar- Mr. Schaeffer is an old man serving his 99 years term in prison for killing a man. His prosaic life welcomes a new change when a 18 year old latino Tico Feo joins the prison. He is moody, liar but he plays a diamond studded guitar which he has brought with him to the prison. Schaeffer loves him (non platonic) and soon they become close friends. But Tico Feo has plans, plans to escape!

3. A christmas Memory- Two cousins live together- one is seven year old and her ‘buddy’ as she calls her cousin is sixty something. They are lonely, living on the edge but are happy. This is the story of their camaraderie, their plans for Christmas as they have to turn their pockets inside out to bake the cakes which they send to all their acquaintances including the American President.

All in all, these 4 stories were a welcome recluse from all the serious fiction/non fiction I have been reading lately. Strongly recommended.

Buy a copy from Amazon here

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri [Book Review]

Interpreter of Maladies cover

Title : Interpreter of Maladies

Author : Jhumpa Lahiri

ISBN : 9780618101368

Publisher : Harper Collins India

Genre : Short Stories

Pages : 198

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars

 

 

A collection of 9 short stories, most of which are about NRIs, which will make your mind go on a bumpy ride while you sit back and can’t help yourself but applaud the author for the life and surrealism she has put in each story.

A young couple in an almost broken marriage get a chance to talk to each other due to power failure. What follows is a series of confessions which will change their future.


A Bangladeshi socializes with an Indian family every evening in the distant land of America while the child in the family can’t see what constitutes the ‘border’ which makes them different from him.

A driver cum interpreter befriends an American woman while she is on a trip to India with her family and gets to know an astonishing révélation.
An old woman refugee from Bangladesh, who was apparently rich there, seeks companionship and recignition while sweeping the stairs of an apartment in Calcutta.

A young Midwestern woman is caught in an affair with a married Bengali man which is leading her to nowhere before she spends time with a 8 year old kid which forces her to rethink what makes her ‘sexy’.

A simpleton married Bengali woman in America, for whom learning how to drive is a must if she wants to continue the job of a babysitter, but it’s not that easy as it seems to be.

A young couple buys a new house in Boston only to find many christian religious symbols and idols which fascinates the childish young wife while the husband struggles to accept her love and attachment for the alien religious assets.

An epileptic 30-approaching orphan girl who marriage can cure her. But her fate, which doesn’t help her in the quest for companionship, does something unexpected yet disgusting, which finally cures her.

A young Indian in Massachssets rent a small room for 6 weeks but that time with the 103 years old lady makes him for compassionate, empathetic and thankful for the years to come.

Ms. Lahiri has an eye for detail, for materialistic things and the environment around as well as for the myriad of thoughts, emotions, peace, empathy and yearnings which surrounds and entangles the characters in the stories.

Her stories seem to be explicitly woven together and transcend the cultural and ethnic aspect of things, anybody can relate to. Through these stories, Lahiri makes ordinary people seem extraordinary. These are people who lead simple lives, yet see it as special.

She writes about India and Indian heritage. She writes about its culture, beliefs, traditions and the pain of missing India, experienced by Indian immigrants in American Universities.

Listed in the Amazon’s list of ‘100 Books to read in your lifetime’, you can’t afford to miss this wonderful collection. And if you are a Bengali and/or NRI, the stories will reverberate in your memory for a bit longer. Buy a copy from Amazon here