Best Indian Short Story Collections to Read Right Away
Short stories are considered the ultimate proofs of artistic craft and prowess because they require brevity as well as intensity. A short story writer must connect wit his or her readership within very limited number of words and pages, unlike the novelist who has time to forge such relationships. At the same time however, the short story writer must be impactful too, because the story must leave its mark on the reader. Here is a list of Best Indian short story collections that are masterful in these respects and so many more.
Best Indian Short Story Collections to Read Right Away:
Monsoon by Vimala Devi
This is a collection of short stories written originally in Portuguese. But more appropriately, it’s an evocation of colonial Goa, in its vibrancy and unique culture. With a host of stories that range from satirical to lamenting and tender, this feels like a photograph frozen in time. The best part is that they have sociohistorical as well as personal dimensions. From caste and linguistic subversion to infidelity and house-husbandry, these stories are unique.
Mottled Dawn by Saadat Hasan Manto
Manto was a hugely political writer for his times, commenting on the Partition and the plight of Hindus and Muslims, but in a distinctively humanistic way. He wrote extensively about the people that got caught up in the Partition, and demeans the idea as a senseless and poisonous severing of a limb. In his most famous story “Toba Tek Singh”, he talks about the predicament of a mental asylum patient who does not know where his home is. So when the patients are sent to their home countries during the partition, he prefers to sit in the area between the two countries, the “no man’s land”.
The Poisoned Bread by Arjun Dangle
This pathbreaking volume brings together a collection of the best short stories and poems by Dalit writers in Maharashtra. These are stories about caste oppression, social injustice and personal struggle. From conversion to Buddhism to inequalities in scholarship and bureaucracy, this book brings facets of the social life of Dalits to life. It’s a must read not just for its social dimension but because at the heart of it, these are stories about people and their emotions. There is definitely something intrinsically beautiful about these stories.
Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi
These are powerful, impactful, no-nonsense stories revolving around the female body. “Draupadi” follows a tribal woman, Dopdi who is captured by the special forces. They assault her and rape her. But much like Draupadi of the Mahabharata, she will not be shamed so easily. Without any God to protect her, she will dignify herself. “Old Women” tells the story of two elderly women. One of them lives her life from one day to another, and the other has lost her sight due to societal indifference and government negligence.
The Nine Chambered Heart by Janice Pariat
This beautiful collection of stories follows nine characters who recall their relationship with the same character. Seen from the eyes of various characters, such as a teacher, a parent and a friend, our protagonist comes alive. Perhaps even more alive than if we had been allowed access into his innermost depths. Its unique concept and perfect prose make it a must read.
The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai
Anita Desai is a master storyteller, and her collection of short stories is a testament to this. The titular novella follows a mysterious hermit like man living in the snowscapes of Himalayas. Living in isolation and solitude, he harbours a secret known by none until he disappears. In another story, a translator, while translating the book of a friend, begins to fill in the gaps with her memory. So, in the process, the book becomes increasingly coloured with bias. In the third story, a government official comes to a museum for an inspection And discovers a hidden treasure.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
In this Pulitzer prize winning collection, Lahiri manages to get to the heart of the diaspora community. As she chronicles the emotional and physical journeys of various first and second generation diasporic people, she tugs at the heartstrings. The best part about her short stories is the immaculate connections that characters forge with each other. Even without any blood relationship, she creates wonderful and unexpected relationships. So her Mrs Sen befriends an 11 year old white boy, and the unnamed narrator in “The Third and Final Continent” bonds with his elderly white landlady.
The Adventures of Feluda by Satyajit Ray
Ray is perhaps India’s most widely known filmmaker. But the truth is he was a storyteller at heart. Whether through films or short stories, he told his stories in a vibrant, exciting way. His adventures of Feluda collections are the Indian counterparts of Sherlock Holmes. In these, Felu-da with his companion Topshe and a budding crime writer friend solve innumerable crimes. Traversing the length and breadth of India and even other countries, this book is a gem.
Also Read: Best Indian Short Story Collections to Read Right Away
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