Saturday, April 07, 2012

മലയാളത്തിന്റെ 100 കഥകള്‍(100 mini stories from Malayalam)

A collection of 100 mini stories by 100 different writers in Malayalam is an interesting read. The name include some of the big-wigs in the Malayalam Literary world, from VKN , Madhavikkutty, Kovilan, M Mukundan, Punathil Kunjabdulla etc etc to some of the 'new kids in the block'. While the majority of the stories were after the same old cliched subject of abuse, family values, expatriation, abandoned parents back home etc, there were a few different voices and attempt to improve within the constraints of a short fiction.

Like any compilations, this has 10+ good stories and a lot of average mediocre ones and the rest shear waste. I know one can not reach consensus with others in their liking. I picked around 8 stories for a second read and the person read this book immediately after me picked her 8. There were agreement only on 5 ( so much for good ).

I know it is not easy to write a story in few sentences or in less than a half a page length. It demands a different level of skill and talent. The impact has to sublime and lasting. The language has to be crisp while being fuild. The words to be poetic and the theme or plot to be short. That also calls for better editorial and compilation work. Considering all that, this is a brave attempt to get them published in one book trying to include most of the prominent writers of Malayalam. Arshad Batheri, who compiled the book ( which include on of his own creation) tells us that these are directly collected from the writers and have not been published elsewhere. Hence, unlike other anthologies , this does not have a history of readers feedback and their previous experience.

The stories stood out for their brilliance and their ability to handle the their theme differently are of Kovilan, Pattathuvila Karunakaran, Perumbatavam Sridharan, Vaishakhan, U K Kumaran, E Harikumar, Abraham Mathew , K Raghunathan and K V Anoop. These are my picks and I am sure you can come up with another after you read them. Death was the theme for Pattathuvila ( gorgeously named Guernica ) , Perumbatavan ( yathra ) and Vaishakhan ( marakkombil thoongiyirikkunna kuta), each taking it in a different way. Mixing the Picasso's Guernica ( created during Spanish Civil war after the Basque town with the same name was bombed by German and Italian Airplanes) to the present day bombing and murder in a small town, Karunakaran depicts a scary picture of the current day political murders. Vaishakhan's symbolism of death to the hanging umbrella on the tree after a gruesome road accident, Perumbatavam's journey to the other world, UK Kumaran's 'man' is unable to react or respond to the external world thus remain a nonbeing.

James Kelman's 'acid' and the one line story of Guatemalan writer Augusto Monterroso's 'The Dinosaur' ( for those who want to know the story goes like this : "When he woke up,the dinosaur was still there") comes to my mind. I remember being shocked by Acid. While these stories may not be as impressive as some of the better stories written elsewhere, this indeed is a significant attempt in the same direction.
മലയാളത്തിന്റെ 100 കഥകള്‍ (100 stories from Malayalam)
100 Writers ( Compiled by Arshad Bathery )

Olive Books

150 Pages

Rs 90

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