» Review »
Canons To The South
Wind Flowers: Contemporary Malayalam Short Fiction
By Edited By V. Abdulla By R.E. Asher
Pages: 208; Rs 250
Anthologies are of two kinds: ones that tread familiar ground, follow the canon and make a selection from the well-established, and others that take risks by exploring new ground, break or alter the canon and introduce new writings to which the readers’ response is not yet clearly known. This anthology belongs to the former category. Quite a few of these stories, like Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s In the Floods
, Lalitambika Antharjanam’s The Goddess of Revenge
, O.V. Vijayan’s After Hanging
, T. Patmanabhan’s The Death of Makhan Singh
and Paul Zacharia’s Bhaskara Pattelar
and My Life
have featured earlier in English in anthologies or individual collections while the rest of the authors from Vaikkom, Karoor Neelakanta Pillai, Mohammad Basheer and M.T. Vasudevan Nair to M. Mukundan, Sarah Joseph and N.S. Madhavan have already won national recognition and been translated widely.
However, it does reflect the growth of the Malayalam short story over the last 60 years. There’s a variety of themes and forms. So there is the story of a headmaster who steals a packet of rice from a student (The Packet of Rice by Karoor), the cruelty of man-woman relationships (Scooter by Sarah Joseph), the fierce condemnation of religious insularity and totalitarian power (Anal Haq by Basheer), the quietly ironic reflection on the solitude and estrangement of a young Indian in Philadelphia (Sherlock by M.T.), a youth’s dream-like love for a schoolgirl (The Night Queen by S.K. Pottekkat) and more.
The translations are uniformly faithful. The anthology, however, ignores a whole new generation of Malayalam writers. Strange that a ‘contemporary’ compilation should have stories from an earlier generation of writers who are no more and ignores the new generation that’s registered a strong presence in the last one or two decades.