May 26, 2020
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Cold Comfort

For an anthology that contours the most life-affirming of relationships, this is a cold, bleak book.

Cold Comfort
outlookindia.com
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An Endless Winter’s Night: An Anthology Of Mother-Daughter Stories

Edited By Ira Raja and Kay Souter
Women Unlimited | 336 pages | Rs 375

This anthology collects many old favorites. Why now? What changing dimension of women’s fiction do these narratives explore? Feminist writing is self-limiting, or should be, as it began from a need to be heard. A hundred years into this hearing, what new wisdom does it have to deliver? While one writer cannot be expected to show this growth, the stream of thought represented by the genre ought to reflect some evolution. What unfamiliar truth are these familiar stories being employed to reveal?

The introduction aims high, but the tedious analysis morcellates each story and leaves a bloody trail. Here are stories rooted in angst (My Mother, Her Crime, No Letter From Mother, Her Mother’s Ashes), in victimhood (The Swan, Allegra, The Confession), in rejection (The Art of Dying, Killing Abhimanyu). The situations are different, but the philosophy remains aridly monotonous.

Either grow up or get beyond, is life’s own answer to these situations. What the reader wants to know is: how? And therein lies the conflict between Indian feminist fiction and Indian women. Despite patriarchy’s stranglehold, women in India are articulate and inspire survivors—why not tell us how?

There is very little tenderness in the book, apart from Nasira Sharma’s The Chest and Sujata Bhatt’s poem My Mother’s Way of Wearing a Sari. Urmila Pawar’s Childhood Tale is the lone paean of loyalty. For an anthology that contours the most life-affirming of relationships, this is a cold, bleak book.

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