THIS is a compilation of 15 early stories of Subimal Misra, who is considered a cult figure in Bengali literature and one of the unsung heroes of contemporary Indian fiction. He was first published in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Distinct from the conventional modes of storytelling that preceded him, Misra’s pieces are more anti-stories than stories – they are a montage of images that flow into each other and tell a tale with greater power and urgency than narrative fiction. Every story hits hard, gripping the reader with its intensity and an underlying fantastical horror that is firmly rooted in reality.
The title story ‘The Golden Gandhi Statue from America’ begins with the corpse of Haran Majhi’s widow floating down the turbid waters of the creek towards Kalighat. Haran Majhi, a share-cropper, had left the wife widowed and who later sells muri (rice flakes) to feed herself and her one-and-a-half year old son. One day she commits suicide, leaving behind her son an orphan. This happens in the city of Calcutta while the nation eagerly awaits the unveiling of the golden statue of Gandhi which arrives at Dum Dum airport. The lid of the box carrying the statue is opened and there pops out, to everyone’s amazement, the decomposed corpse of Haran Majhi’s wife. The stories in this compilation set you pondering as they document the land of Bengal of the 20th century.
(HarperPerennial, HarperCollins, A-53 Sector 57, Noida-201 301;www.harpercollins.co.in)