Monday, April 16, 2007

Katha Prize Stories: Volume 5

A compelling read, this volume showcases the breath taking potential of the Indian short story and affirms that good writing transcends all barriers, linguistic and thematic. Fifteen stories that explore a stunning range of themes, settings and literary styles. Twelve Indian languages feature in this volume. The languages are Asomiya, Bangla, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

India Today

Prize Catch … the best of India Translated.

"World Class"

In its search for excellence from a pan-Indian selection of contemporary fiction, Katha without doubt, comes out a winner. It has been so ever since its first volume of translated Indian fiction in 1990. Five years down the line, things get only better.

“We had wanted the selection to be more eclectic than in the previous years,” says editor Geeta Dharmarajan in her introduction. She seems to have succeeded. Prize Stories Volume 5, is like a brilliant and stunning patchwork quilt, every piece standing out and holding its own because of its colour, its texture, its unique design. The collection offers a very vast sweep – of languages, styles, content, fertility, arranged marriage, being an Indian abroad, a curious peep into the future and a nostalgic look at the past, are just some of the pegs around which the authors spin out their tales so attractively soaked in the idiom of their land, their province.

But there’s nothing provincial about them. Quintessentially homespun, each translated short story emerges as a highly polished and rounded work of fiction, which can easily hold its own anywhere. These are truly the “world class stories” the editors had hoped for. In a selection so fine it’s difficult to pick out those stories that are more excellent then others. But any reader immediately singles out the favourites. Three stories that will continue to haunt me are “Unclaimed” (translated from Kannada), “Wing” (translated from Marathi) and “The Pigman” (translated from Malayalam). “Unclaimed,” taking off from the modest shop of a picture framer, soars high into realms of empathy and compassion. The here-and-now needs of a slum dweller make lofty sentiment seem absurd. “Wings,” the story of a “choiceless” arranged marriage in the family is seen through the eyes of a little girl, Meenu. The trauma of such a marriage impacts even the little Meenu who despite her innocence, can ultimately picture herself as a helpless victim of custom. This is one of the longer works in this volume and perhaps because of this the characters appear a little more finely honed. Delving into the psyche of a disturbed mind, is the fascinating story, “The Pigman,” put together through the unusual format of pages from a diary. The narrative is extremely lucid and in a way, is almost frightening in its clarity.

All three stories are remarkable in their sensitivity and in their lack of embellishment. The style is always straight and uncluttered even if the content is often complex and the prose becomes all the more energetic because of this simplicity of style. The sheer pleasure derived from these Prize Stories says it all for the vibrancy and vigour of India in language fiction.

For those of us who can speak just one or two of our languages, Katha is a godsend. Translators of Indian stories must have just the right, light touch to be able to change the language and yet not lose the culture. The editor echoes a fairly common sentiment when she says, “English, we are told is a ‘cold’ language, incapable of capturing the nuances and emotions of an Indian story.” In the hands of the Katha translators, it’s not so. It is to their credit that none of the stories here seem to have lost any of the vitality, warmth or magic of the original.

– Gouri Salvi
The Authors

Ajit Thakor
U R Anantha Murthy
Asha Bage
Diptiranjan Pattanaik
Harekrishna Deka
Jayant Kaikini
Prasenjit Ranjan Gupta
N Prabhakaran
Shirish Dhoble
T Sreevalli Radhika
Syed Muhammad Ashraf
Tarapada Ray
Thomas Joseph
Usha K R

The Translators

Keerti Ramachandra
Anupama Prabhala Kapse
Aruna Bhowmick
Charusheela Sohoni
Chitta Ranjan Das
D N Bezboruah
Gauri Deshpande
C T Indra
Narayan Hegde
Paul Zacharia
Saleem Kidwai
Upendra Nanavati
Vanajam Ravindran

The Nominating Editors & Journals

Assamese: Indira Goswami (Gariyoshi)
Bangla: Hiranmay Karlekar (Sharadiya Ananda Bazar Patrika)
English: Gurcharan Das
Gujarati: Upendra Nanavati (Gadyaparva)
Hindi: Ashok Vajpeyi (Samaas)
Kannada: H Y Sharada Prasad (Udayavani, Sudha)
Malayalam: K Satchidanandan (India Today)
Marathi: Arvind Dixit (Sadhana)
Oriya: Jiwan Pani (Jhunkara)
Tamil: Vijayalakshmi Quereshi (Unnatham)
Telugu: Madhurantakam Rajaram (Andhra Prabha Sacithra Vara Patrika)
Urdu: Sadiq-ur-Rahman Kidwai (Daar Se Bichhre)

Edited by
Geeta Dharmarajan
Meenakshi Sharma
Publishers: Katha
Cover Design: Taposhi Ghoshal
Colours: Arvinder Chawla
Logo Design: Crowquill
Category: Katha Prize Stories
Statistics: 5.5" x 8" 224 pages
ISBN 81-85586-35-7 [PB]
Price: Rs 200 [India and the subcontinent only]

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