Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests





Saturday, August 19, 2017

"Red Glow of the New Moon" - A Short Story by Kundanika Kapadia (translated from Gujarati by Sarla Jag Mohan)















Shortstories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

  1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
  2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
  3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
  4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
  5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
  6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
  7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
  8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
  9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
  10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu
  11. It's All Up to You" by Slywia Chutnik - Translated from Polish
  12. "Covert Joy" by Clarice Lispector- Translated from Portuguese 
  13. "The Daughter, The Wife, and the Mother" by Arupa Kilita - Translated from Assam
  14. "Red Glow of the New Moon" by Kundanika Kapadia - translated from Gujarati

Today's story, "Red Glow of the New Moon" by Kundhanika Kapadia, translated from Gujarati is a beautiful story about the joys a reading life can bring.  I am so glad I read this classic reading life story, I might never have discovered it but for my participation in Women in Translation Month.

The central character of this story is a quite elderly woman, living in Gujarati, India with her extended family.  She has always been a deep reader of literature and philosophy and spiritual teachings.  She especially loves the poetry of Tagore, Yeats, Rilke, and Blake.  She has much of their work and spirit fully internalized.  She lives with her two sons and their wives.  She has another son who moved to America long ago and has married an American woman.  He and his wife are on the Way Home, having been advised Mother is very ill.

No one in her family understands her relationship to the beauty she finds in literature.  She is worried how her American daughter in law will fit in, she remembers long ago, she has never met her, she sent her a collection of the poetry of Tagore as a wedding gift.


"She glanced at the sky from the window. She had so arranged her bed that through the window she could have a good view of the neem tree in the courtyard. Very often, the boughs of the neem tree swung violently in the wind and seemed to be trying to touch the window. Through the gaps between the boughs she could get a glimpse of the blue sky and bits of clouds occasionally floating across the sky. At times a noisy bird would come and perch on the boughs. The bird with a long tail, may be doodhraj. Normally that bird lives amidst dense foliage of
trees and is not easily seen. But the bird came and sat in such a way as though it had come to visit her. There was much excitement in the house. Deepankar and Maria were to arrive by the afternoon flight. Deepankar was her youngest son. He had gone to the States seven years ago. He had married an American girl. He had often written to say that he wanted to come home, but had not. But now that the mother was on her deathbed, he was coming with his wife. An American girl. She wondered what she would be like. She smiled faintly to herself. It was a song by Tagore, rendered into Gujarati by the poet Meghani —'I wonder what she would have been, my mother. I don't remember in the least.' In her own time she had pored over Tagore's writing. Tagore and Yeats and Ibsen. On Sundays, she would go with friends to the riverbank or to the forest. They would eat and drink, rest under
the trees, sing songs and then they would recite some poems aloud... Tagore's 'I shall not let you go...' and William Blake's 'To see the world in a grain of sand...' And 'I will arise and go now.... to see where night and day the waters of the lake pat the bank —that poem of Yeats they had almost learnt by heart. And the poems of Masefield —'Give me a pathway and sky overhead... a bonfire by the roadside when it's cold... again the dawn and travel once more....' She had lived in the midst of beauty in myriad forms. She had found life always worth living. And now the present generation... her elder son and his wife Maya, her middle son and his wife Chhaya... she wondered if they ever read Tagore, Kalidas, Shakespeare? As for Nietzsche and Bergson, they had probably not even heard their names! She had kept her favourite books in the bookcase in her room. Right from Creative Evolution to
Fourth Way, Ekottoarashari and Rabindra Veena..... and the combined anthology of John Donne and Blake... there were many books. But her daughter-in-laws had never touched her bookcase. They had shown no curiosity about those books. They read books by Alistair Maclean, James Hadley Chase, Ian Fleming, Gulshan Nanda. 'We are feeling bored" —that was their constant refrain. The word boredom constantly figured in their talks. She had not particularly experienced boredom in her life. "

The remarks on boredom really struck me.  Her reading has kept her from every experiencing boredom.  She has found a transcendent beauty.

"Amiel. Bergson, Tagore... she and her husband talked about them as if they were their friends. They had drunk deep from their writings, their lives and their philosophy. And now the moment of death was not far away. The greatest, most delightful moment—the highest experience of life. She wanted to retain the glow of that moment like the full moon or the new moon, with its reddish light so that it would drench her limbs."

The closing of this story is simply wonderful, I know I am gushing but like the narrator I am so glad I grateful to be able to feel the depth of love in the close of this story.
Her American daughter in law comes to sit with her.  She recalls Years ago she had sent her American daughter in law an edition of the poetry of Tagore.  The daughter in law had memorized and internalized the poems.  A deep immediate love was formed between two very different on the surface Women.  As they look out of the window at the glow of the red moon, they both sense the moon has come to say goodbye.  The woman is now ready to move to another plane of existence, joyous that she has at last truly bonded with another lover of the Reading Life.  

I thought it very interesting that it is noted that she read Tagore in translation.  

This story can be read in a first rate anthology, Our Favorite Indian Short Stories.

Gujarati, spoken primarily in the state of Gujarat, has about 50,000,000 million speakers.

Mel u




Friday, August 18, 2017

"The Daughter, the Wife, and the Mother" - A Short Story by Arupa Kalita (translated from Assam, 2011)




Short stories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

  1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
  2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
  3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
  4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
  5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
  6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
  7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
  8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
  9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
  10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu
  11. It's All Up to You" by Slywia Chutnik - Translated from Polish
  12. "Covert Joy" by Clarice Lispector- Translated from Portuguese 
  13. "The Daughter, The Wife, and the Mother" by Arupa Kilita - Translated from Assam

"The Daughter, the Wife, and the Mother by Arupa Patangia Kalita, translated from Assam by Snigalham Alati is the sixth story by a woman from the Indian Subcontinent upon which I have posted for Women in Translation Month, August, 2017.  Including English, India has twenty three official languages.  I will hopefully post on at least four more.  


I will, hopefully, continue this project and eventually post on a story from every official language.  This also affords me the occasion to expand my knowledge of Indian culture and history. I have five anthologies of Indian Short Stories on my E Reader and lots can be found online.  

Assam is the official language of the Assam Province, an official language of India, located in upper north eastern India. There is a long history of poetry in Assam.

Gauri Pehi is a fifty year old woman, now her life is taken up with fixing breakfast for her family, then sitting under a tree until she works on lunch.  She is clearly mentally disturbed, laughing, then crying or muttering or yelling at others in the household.  She is preoccupied with a small spot on her thigh.  Years ago at maybe thirteen she was sent as a bride.  When the groom saw the spot he thought she was a diseased witch.  Her father in law, dragging her by the hair, returns her to her family, who does not want her back.  Five times she is sent to her groom's family.  The last time at nineteen, sent back after having a child, which is kept. The last time she was returned tied down in a bullock art, screaming for her son,  as time goes on and her sister in laws have children she goes mad.

One wonderful day to Gauri, her son, now a handsome wealthy doctor comes to get his mother.  Here is the terrible closing:


"Pehi’s two younger brothers were standing next to each other. A The picture of a bullock cart floated before her eyes. The cart-driver standing with a pair of white and black bullocks, the shrill cry of the baby, the nineteen-year-old girl tied with a rope and left in the cart. A strong hand held her pinioned to the cart, Pehi making a vain effort to set herself free. The soothing security of the margosa beckoned her. 

The handsome young man looked at the old woman on the rear seat. He frowned. Was it a mistake? Pehi’s father had bought a plot of land in her name right in the middle of Guwahati. The thought brought some sort of solace to his mind. Everything was ready. Only a thumb impression and then a house, a chamber and a nursing home in future. The car started moving.
Pehi was wailing now. In her subconscious, she heard the cry of a baby. “No no no!” The young man looked again. How would Namita put up with her! Even if she did, what will people say? It is alright, something should be done. He had already told his uncle that his mother needed treatment. He would send her to a mental asylum. Who would blame him? Yes, she should be treated!"

Her life was ruined by a small spot on her thigh at age 13.  

Arupa Patangia Kalita was born in 1956 and studied at Golaghat Mission Girls High School and Debraj Roy college she did her MA in Gauhati University. She pursued her Ph.D. from Gauhati University. Besides novel, novella and short stories she writes on issues concerning women and society. Her novels and short stories have been translated to many languages. Her writings have also been included in syllabus of many colleges and universities. She writes in Assam.
































Thursday, August 17, 2017

"COVERT JOY (“ FELICIDADE CLANDESTINA”) - A Short Story by Clarice Lispector (1971, translated from Portuguese)
























The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lispector, translated from Portuguese by Katrina Dodson (2015) is one of the great translation projects of the 21th century.  I was kindly given a review copy of this work a few months prior to publication. As I read through it in amazement I knew this book would capture the hearts of all lovers of the short story.  Benjamin Moser in his very well done introduction warns us that the work of Clarice Lispector can be like witchcraft craft to those vulnerable to her spell.  I admit to being captivated.  I proudly put her image on my blog sidebar long ago.  Anyone interested in her will surely do a Google search.  They will learn her family, she was very young, left her native Ukraine to move to north eastern Brazil, where many Jews had relocated, to escape vicious anti-Semitic pograms.  They spoke no Portuguese on but Clarice became the greatest of all Brazilian writers.  Sadly as I read this I thought few countries today, including 
America, would welcome a poor family of five from the Ukraine as new citizens.  





I could not let Women in Translation Month pass without including a post upon a short story by Clarice.  I have read all of her stories at least twice, and am slowly reading them  again and hopefully will eventually post on all 85 stories.  I found a short story perfect for the primary theme of my blog, literary works about people who lead reading centered lives.  


"Covert Joy" centers on a young girl living in Recife, where Clarice grew up.  She loves books totally.  There is a rich 
girl, a cruel bully girl, who lords it over her poorer but much better looking fellow students.  The narrator can afford to buy books so the bully girl keeps telling her to come to her house and she will loan her a book.  For days on end she makes the girl come back, always with an excuse why there is no book for her today.   Finally the bully's motherintervenes and give the girl a book.  The girl is overwhelmed with joy.  You have to love the close of the story:

"Hours later I opened it, read a few wondrous lines, closed it again, wandered around the house, stalled even more by eating some bread and butter, pretended not to know where I had put the book, found it, opened it for a few seconds. I kept inventing the most contrived obstacles for that covert thing that was joy. Joy would always be covert for me. I must have already sensed it. Oh how I took my time! I was living in the clouds . . . There was pride and shame inside me. I was a delicate queen. Sometimes I’d sit in the hammock, swinging with the book open on my lap, not touching it, in the purest ecstasy. I was no longer a girl with a book: I was a woman with her lover."


I highly recommend Why This World:A Biography of Clarice Lispector by Benjamin Moser.

Mel u


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Slight a Rebellion of Madison" - A Short Story by J. D. Salinger (first published, December 21, 1946 in The New Yorker)


Born- New York City - January 1, 1919

Catcher in the Rye Published - 1951 - estimated sales 65,000,000

Died- Concord, New Hampshire- January 27, 2010

"Slight Rebellion of Madison" became the basis for Catcher in the Rye.  A modified version of the story appears as chapter 17.  The central character is, of course, Holden Caulfield, he is out of the prep school he hates and back in New York City, trying to hook up with Sally.  I read Catcher in the Rye about fifty years ago.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I could recall, especially the unique style of Salinger.

I read this in an anthology I was kindly given by The New Yorker, Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker.

Mel u





Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1812)





Pride and Prejudice (1812) by Jane Austen is one of the most popular novels ever written.  It is on every list of best 100 novels of all time.  I last read it about forty years ago.  I am not sure what motivated me to read it again now.  Maybe I was a desire to have the greatest writers in the world represented on The Reading Life.  

I will just keep my post short.  The plot line focuses on Elizabeth Bennet, one of five daughters of Mr and Mrs Bennet.  All are of marriageable age without when we meet them suitors.  The Bennet's family income is derived from his property but they have a big legal problem.  The estate is entailed, meaning it can be inherited only by a male descendent.  As of now a distant male cousin is inline to inherit the estate, he can turn everyone out if he wishes.  So the plot turns around a search for a husband rich enough to provide for the family for at least one of the girls.  

I throughly enjoyed rereading Pride and Prejudice.  I like the ironic tone of Austen, her subtle observations and her acute character developments.

I have begun rereading Emma, I work I read about ten years ago.  I decided to read it next as there is an entire chapter in The Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne Booth devoted to the narrative method in Emma and I will reread this chapter after completing Emma.


Mel u

"It's All Up to You" - A Short Story by Sylwia Chutnik (translated from Polish by Jennifer Craft, 2012)






Short stories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

  1. "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
  2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
  3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
  4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
  5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
  6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
  7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
  8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
  9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
  10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu
  11. It's All Up to You" by Slywia Chutnik - Translated from Polish

Imagine you are out of work, you are at an office, talking to a woman in personal about working there, an advertising agency.  The woman, the narrator calls her a girl, is just to perfect for words, disgustingly cute, double majored in college, speaks four languages, drives the men wild when she goes out on the town.  The narrator tries to fight her jealousy, her feelings of inferiority but they just keep getting worse.

These darkly hilarious lines show just how the narrator feels about everything:

"What a sweet little bear, that’s fantastic. Even her toys are awesome, and people like her never sweat, and they don’t ever have any problems with their digestive systems. And they don’t go into the pharmacy and ask for Lactovaginal in a hushed voice. “What?” “Lactovaginal.” “Vaginal discharge?” shrieks the lady at the counter. God, yes, vaginal discharge......something down on a piece of paper. She’s already taken her course on how to conduct interviews, which was connected with her Reiki II foot massage and her advanced German classes. She knows what to say. And if ever she doesn’t know, she laughs. I don’t know anything, and I’m traveling around the carpeting by chair. Weee’ll letyouknow. Great. Another job I’m not getting. I turn and look back at the babe through the glass that separates the swells from the plebs, enclosed in their plastic boxes. I feel a terrible hatred, I feel the injustice of it, I feel the shame of it. A woman in a dress suit walks past me and gives my shoulder a friendly clap. “Don’t cry, they might still take you as a cleaning lady—they’re holding the next interviews in a week.” "

As a bit of time goes by, things take a serious turn for the worse.   She is hit by a street car and one of her legs is shattered. She has to take work handing out leaflets for a cosmetic company.  Just when she feels things cannot get worse, the woman from the place that rejected her job application, trying not to look at and certainly not recalling her, takes a leaflet and contemptuously throws it in the trash.

I read this story in Best European Fiction 2013, the entire nine volume series is a goldmine of work suited for Women in Translation Month.

Mel u


Monday, August 14, 2017

"Cast Offs" - A Short Story by Wajida Tabassum (1969, translated from Urdu)




Short stories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

1.  "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish
10. "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum - Translated from Urdu

This morning's story "Cast Offs" by Wajida Tabassum was written originally in Urdu. Urdu is spoken by about 150,000,000 million people, in eastern central India and Pakistan.  It is linguistically a form of Hindustani.

Much of Tabassum's work centers on family life in the Hyderabad area.  My quick research indicates "Cast Offs" is her most famous story.  As the story opens the very spoiled seven year old daughter of a wealthy family is being given a bath.  She orders the daughter of the servant woman in charge of her bath to disrobe and get in the tub with her.  Both are seven.  After they get out of the tub the two girls argue over what clothes the servant girl will wear, her clothes are near rags and she resents and does not really understand why she must wear only the other girl's cast off clothes. Her mother fears if her mistress hears of her daughter's attitude they will be thrown out of the house.  Here is the account from the story:

"‘Pasha, I thought … if you and I exchanged dupattas and became sisters then I too could wear your clothes.’ ‘My clothes? You mean all those clothes lying in my trunks?’ Chamki nodded hesitantly, feeling apprehensive. Shahzadi Pasha doubled up with laughter. ‘Oh, no! What a silly girl! You are a servant. You people only wear my cast-offs. All your life you will wear nothing but that.’ Then, with great care, born more out of pride than kindness, Shahzadi picked up the clothes she had taken off before her bath and tossed them at Chamki. ‘Here! Wear these. I have many others.’ Chamki flared up. ‘Why should I? Why don’t you wear my clothes?’ She pointed at the filthy pile lying in a heap. Shahzadi hissed with anger."

The mother was hired when the wealthy girl was a baby, as her wet nurse and she has stayed on since then.  She is grateful for her position and tries to get her daughter to feel the same way.  As the girls turn thirteen the mistress of the house locates a wealthy groom for her daughter and is so kind as to find one for the servant girl also.  The wealthy girl tells the other that all her cast off clothes will be her dowry.  Years of suppressed anger rise up in the servant girl.  She hatches a plot for revenge.  Just before the wedding she enters the quarters of the groom, at the family's house for the wedding.  She seduces him.  Now she laughed to herself that for the rest of her life the wealthy girl will be stuck with her cast off.

When this story was originally published in 1977 it was denounced because many felt the attitude displayed was inappropriate for Muslim women.  Since publication it has been translated into eight languages and made the basis for a popular 1988 Soap Opera.


WAJIDA TABASSUM was born and brought up in Amravati, Hyderabad. She is author of twenty-seven books of fiction and poetry. Several of her stories have been translated into other languages and some have been made into films. Wajida Tabassum writes in Urdu.  She was born in 1935, and died in 2011.  "Cast Offs" was the basis for a popular 1988 Indian soap opera.  Movies were made of her novels.  Commercial she was very successful.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Ladies' Lending Library by Janice Kulyk Keefer (2007, 355 pages)





Ladies' Lending Library by Janice Kulyk is set in 1963, amongst first and second Generation Ukrainian emigrants to Canada, at their summer homes on a beach about six hours from Toronto, where the husbands of the families in the story work.  Sometime ago an enterprising Ukrainian real estate agent bought a stretch of beach land, on Lake Huron.  He then sold lots to members of the Toronto Ukrainian community, who built summer houses where the wives and children would go for eight weeks in the summer.  Being able to afford this meant you were a success in Canada.  We see the struggles of the first generation to fit in and raise their families while their kids have little sense of being anything but Canadian.

One of the mothers lives in a mansion with servants, the other women work very hard doing laundry, cooking watching over their developing teenage daughters.  Their husbands come on week ends.  They pretty much have repair jobs on the houses every weekend.  In 1963 the movie Cleopatra starting Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had just been released.  Everybody, especially the girls, is very into the off screen Romance of the stars.  The girls are obsessed with Elizabeth Taylor's breasts.  In one hilarious scene they conspire to see nude a girl with very large breasts, when that does not quite work out, they steal her bra and take turns trying it on.  

The teenagers are pretty much totally Canadian, their parents try to hang on to their Ukrainian heritage.  In one side plot we learn the tragic story of a sister who had to be left behind in the Ukraine.  After an eight year gap, she rejoined her family in the Ukraine.  There is also the daughter of a family friend, being kept away from the big city as she is growing up way to fast, at sixteen they fear she will disrupt the community.  In a very sad scene, when she loses her virginity, she thinks she can prevent pregnancy by washing up with coke a cola.  

I really enjoyed the narrative methods of Keefer, keeping multiple interacted story lines going.  The characters are very well developed.  We get an excellent feeling for the generational gaps between first and second generation emigrants.  The title of the book comes from the books the ladies read and exchange. The prose is beautiful, the characters are interesting and well individuated.  

I very much enjoyed The Ladies' Lending Library.  This is my first venture into her work and I am certainly interested in reading more of her work

JANICE KULYK KEEFER is a bestselling Canadian author widely admired for her novels, short story collections, poetry, and nonfiction. She has been twice nominated for the Governor General’s Award and is a recipient of the Marian Engel Award, the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry, two first prizes from the CBC Radio Literary Competition, and several National Magazine Awards. The Ladies’ Lending Library is her fifth novel to date and the first to be published in the United States in more than fifteen years. She lives in Toronto.

Mel u

"My Creator, My Creation" - A Short Story by Tilna Raevaara (2012, translated from Finnish)





Short stories I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

1.  "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi
9. "My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara - Translated from Finnish

"My Creator, My Creation" by Tiina Raevaara is a strange story belonging, I think, to the science fiction genre.  The narrator is a self conscious robotic creation, part sex doll, house hold drone.  As the story opens it is not totally clear what is happening but it looks like her male creator is having some kind of sexual contact with the narrator.  She, I will call her that, is not sure what is happening but it seems like maybe he orgasmed while caressing her.  Yes pretty creepy. He is a member of a group that creates, exhibits, trades and sells automatons of all sorts.  The man, seems your stereotype of a scientific nerd sitting around drinking some days, hanging with others into robots on other days.  He teaches her to read, telling her this will make her more valuable.  She begins to have waking dreams.  He takes her to a big exhibit of creations.  He has friends over to admire her.  It appears they also may sexually be stimulated by contact with her.  She doesn't yet understand sex so as we are seeing things through her eyes we must speculate.  Her creator is short of money so as the story closes he tells her she has been sold.

I think this story might be good for classroom discussion for older teenagers.

I read this story in best Best European Fiction, 2013.  Began in 2010, the series is now in year nine.  I have the 2012, 2013, and 2015 editions.  Judging from these three books, about 33% of the  authors translated are women.


TIINA RAEVAARA was born in 1979 in Kerava, Finland. In 2005 she received her doctorate in genetics from the University of Helsinki. Her first novel, Eräänä päivänä tyhjä taivas (One Day, an Empty Sky) was published in 2008. Her first collection of short stories, En tunne sinua vierelläni (I Don’t Feel You Beside Me, 2010) won the prestigious Runeberg prize. Her most recently work is a scientific exploration of the relationship between dogs and humans Koiraksi ihmisille (About Dogs and Humans, 2011). Her fiction, which draws on elements of science fiction, fantasy, and surrealism, stands apart from the largely realistic mainstream of contemporary Finnish literature. - From The Best of European Fiction, 2013

Mel u

Saturday, August 12, 2017

"Mother" - A Short Story by Urmila Pawar (translated from Marathi)

Information on Women in Translation Month - August, 2017





Works I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

1.  "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yiddish
8. "Mother" by Urmilaw Pawar - Translated from Marathi


One of the hoped for results of this year's Women in Translation Month is spotlighting the translations of writings by women from marginalized groups.  There may be no other group of people who were marginalized and culturally degraded by their own religion, by traditions 1000s of years old to the extent as were members of Dalit castes in India, now estimated at 225,000,000.  Caste discrimination is illegal in India now, much as racial discrimination in American, old prejudices to 
not quickly die.

This morning's story, "Mother" is by Urmilaw Pawar born into a Dalit Caste family, in 1949 in Maharashtra.  At age 12, along with her family, she converted to Buddhism when a regional Dalit political leader advised Dalits to reject Hinduism.  She self identifies as a feminist, focusing on the issues women at the bottom of the social scale, women with no real protection.  Urmila Panwar wrote a number of highly regarded short stories about Dalit women, most of which included in the collection of her stories, Mother Wit.  "Mother" is the lead story in this collection.  


Marathi is one of the twenty two official languages of India, spoken by about 70,000,000, mostly on the central western coastal area.

The story is narrated by the older daughter of a Dalit woman, with four children, in her early thirties and recently widowed.  Her husband was a school master, he left her some land and a house.  Her brother in law, whom her husband told her not to trust, has arrived.  He has brought a faith healer to tend to her very ill son.  He urges her to leave her land, in the city, and move to his farm in the village.  She is concerned her children will face serious caste discrimination in the village, her brother in law tells her she will be part of a Dalit community who will defend her.  The woman realizes her brother in law is trying to steal her land.  A terrible quarrel breaks out when the faith healer tells her children she is a demon from a past life trying to ruin their future.  It is obvious this was all part of a plot to get her to move to the village where she will lose her independence.  

The story was translated by Veena Deo.

I read this story in an anthology perfect for Women in Translation Month,  Katha: Short Stories by Women from India.  






A Dalit, a Buddhist and a feminist: Urmila Pawar's self-definition as all three identities informs her stories about women who are brave in the face of caste oppression, strong in the face of family pressures, defiant when at the receiving end of insult, and determined when guarding their interests and those of their sisters. Using the classic short story form with its surprise endings to great effect, Pawar brings to life strong and clever women who drive the reader to laughter, anger, tears or despair. Her harsh, sometimes vulgar and hard- hitting language subverts another stereotype - that of the soft-spoken woman writer. Pawar's protagonists may not always be Dalit, and the mood not always one of anger, but caste is never far from the context and informs the subtext of each story. As critic Eleanor Zelliot notes, there is 'tucked in every story, a note about a Buddhist vihara or Dr Ambedkar.... All her stories come from the Dalit world, revealing the great variety of Dalit life now.'  From Short Stories by Women from India.

The best literary work on Dalits, to my knowledge, is The Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand, 1935.

Mel u







Friday, August 11, 2017

"Tsipke" - A Short Story by Salomea Perl (1916, translated from Yiddish by Ruth Murphy, 2017)

A Link to today's story


"At Hatskel the Butcher’s, Tsipke toiled like a horse. The household there, no evil eye, consisted of ten people, and each one of them screamed and yelled. From the minute the sun came up, she scraped and scoured, washed and polished. From daybreak on, she heard only blistering curses and a stream of abuse. Filth flowed from her in streams, and her hands were black and as bony as two sticks. The butcher called her a common tramp, and the butcher’s wife sent her running a hundred times a day: from the cellar to the butcher shop, from the butcher shop to the attic, from the attic to the barn, and from there barn to the cellar, as if she had legs of iron and the strength of a Russian soldier. Tsipke dared not open her mouth; the butcher’s wife was a real gem, and she would grab Tsipke—for the tiniest little thing—by the head and fling her to the devil himself.  Tsipke never cried. No one had ever seen her weep with tears nor ever heard a sob. Tsipke clucked. She would wedge herself into a corner and cluck for long periods of time, just like a hen that was being kept from sitting on her eggs. The clucking was a type of groan, like a hiccup, like a heart breaking." From Tsipke


Works I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

1.  "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali
7. "Tsipke" by Salomea Perl - Translated from Yeddish

This morning's story for Women in Translation Month was originally written in Yiddish.    Yiddish historically was the language of most Central European, German and Russian Jews.  Much great literature was written in Yiddish.  Prior to the Holocaust there were about ten million language speakers of Yiddish, about five million Yiddish speakers were murdered in the Holocaust.  At one point there were estimated 600,000 speakers of Yiddish in New York City.  Most of their children were raised speaking English only.  In Israel Hebrew is preferred to Yiddish.  Today it is estimated there are worldwide 1.5 million speakers of Yiddish.  Strong efforts are being made worldwide to keep Yiddish alive for future generations.  

Most Yiddish literature was written by men, in the culture the total priority was given to the education of boys.  I was delighted to find a just translated from Yiddish short story first published in 1916, in Poland,  by Salomea Pearl, born in 1869 in Lomźa, Poland on the website of the Yiddish Book Center (you can read the story at the link above).

Tsipke is the maid of all work, close to a slave, in the home of a kosher butcher in a shtetl in Poland.  She works from day break to she falls asleep.  Everyone in the household, especially the butcher's wife is very abusive to Tsipke, striking her when the mood strikes her.  Unmarried childless women in poverty, especially those divorced by their husband as Tsipke was, were greatly looked down upon by married women.  The cruelty with which she is treated is very clearly depicted.  Even other house maids say she is abused.  A single man was often respected as a Torah scholar, whereas women did not go to Torah school.  Looking at Tsipke you cannot hardly tell if she is young or old.  She is terribly thin, her clothes are very worn out, she is filthy.  She also has to work in the butcher shop, carrying heavy buckets of water.  The real villain of the story is the butcher's wife.  The story has a pushing credibility but likable close I will leave untold.


Little is known about Salomea Perl (aka Perla); even the date of her death is lost. A brief entry in Zalmen Reyzen’s Leksikon is the only extant source. She was born in Łomża, Poland, in 1869, daughter of the Hebrew scholar Kalman Avigodor Perla, author of the well-known Oytser loshn khakhomim (Mishnaic Treasures), an alphabetical thesaurus of rabbinical sayings. She grew up in Lublin and eventually moved to Warsaw, where she ran a translation agency for many years. She completed a course of study at the Université de Génève in Switzerland and also studied in Paris and London.

Perl began writing in Polish at the beginning of the 1890s and published one book, Z pamiętnika młodej żydówki (From the Diary of a Young Jewish Woman), in 1895. Her short stories, also written in Polish and published in the reformist Polish Jewish journal Izraelita, caught the attention of the young belletrists active in the literary circles of the day. Among them was author and literary mentor I. L. Peretz, who encouraged her to write in Yiddish. She published several pieces in Peretz’s Perets’s bletlekh, but conflicts both with Peretz and in her personal life slowed her creative output; after that she published only sporadically in Yiddish periodicals. - from the website of The Yiddish Book Center.

The translator of this short story, Ruth Murphy, is preparing for publication a bilingual edition of all seven of Perl's short stories.  I look forward to this welcome addition to translated Yiddish literature.

Mel u



Thursday, August 10, 2017

"Arshingar" - A Short Story by Jharna Raham (translated from Bengali, 2010)




Works I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

1.  "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian
6. "Arshingar" by Jharna Raham - Translated from Bengali

This morning's  story, "Arshingar" by Jharna Rahman was translated from Bengali (sometimes the language is called Bangla) by Shabnam Nadiya.  Bengali is the official language of Bangladesh.  It is estimated to have 225 million speakers.

"Arshingar" centers on a married Muslim woman, mother of four girls and two boys, from Bangladesh.  She and her husband live in a huge house owned by her father in law.  The families of her two bother in laws also live there.  Her two married sister in laws stay there also, with their several children as their husbands work in Saudi Arabia, assorted others in the extended family live there also.

Rahman from the opening shocking  sex scene between Arshingar and her husband in which she breastfeeds her baby while her husband hammers away on top of her, afterwards he feeds from the other breast lets us see into the dynamics of her life.  She accepts this as doing her duty.  She is normally always veiled, even other men in the house have never seen her face, even when she dies she will be buried with a veil covering her face.  We get a good picture of her life, we know her family is affluent and her husband in an important man.  A very odd turn event happens as the story winds down which I will leave untold.

In just a few pages this story takes us inside a world closed to all but insiders.


Jharna Rahman was born in 1959. She received her M.A. in Bangla from the University of Dhaka and has been writing for the last thirty years. As a poet, author of fiction, and playwright, she deals with the various crises, obstacles, hardships and potentialities of Bangladeshi society with all its multidimensional joys and sorrows. Her 19 published works include the short story collections Swarna Tarbari, Agnita, Krishnapakhsher Usha, and Perek, the poetry collection Noshto Jotsna Nosto Roudro, and the play Briddha o Rajkumari. An Assistant Professor of Bangla at Bir Shreshtha Noor Mohammad Rifles Public College, she is also a regular singer on national radio and television.

I read this story in an interesting anthology, The Lotus Singers: Short Stories from Contemporary South Asia.

Mel u

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic (2012, translated from Croatian)








Works I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

1.  "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian
5. "Zletka" by Maja Hrgovic - Translated from Croatian

So far I am having quite a good time through reading short stories for Women in Translation Month, August, 2017. (Full details are in the link above.)  Yesterday I posted on a story focusing on lesbian lovers in Italy in the 1960s.  By coincidence today's story is about a casual lesbian encounter in war ravaged Zagreb, Croatia.  As the story opens our narrator, a young single woman is walking through Zagreb, it is a place of poverty, rundown and grimy with homeless everywhere.  The narrator was unable to wash her hair as her apartment has only cold water.  She stops in a beauty parlor, only a striking young woman, Zletka is working.  She enjoys the sensual feel of Zletka's hands running through the warm water in her hair.  She returns home but later in the evening decides to go to a disco and runs into Zletka.  It is a very loud place.  They end up returning to Zletka's apartment, spending the night having sex.  Zletka's ten year old daughter wakes them in the morning, asking the narrator what type of tea she would like.  The girl, Milo, is delightful, not all shy or surprised by the sleep over guest.

They part without a future commitment.  This story is basically one day in the life of a young urban Croatian woman.  I read it twice and would read more by the author.  The story was translated by Tomislav Kuzmanovie.  I read this story in a very good anthology with seven stories by women, Best European Fiction, 2012.

MAJA HRGOVIĆ was born in 1980 in Split, Croatia. She studied theater and women’s studies. Since 2003 she has worked as a journalist in the culture section of the Novi List Daily, and has been a member of the editorial board at Zarez—a Journal of Cultural and Social Affairs, where she publishes literary reviews. In 2009 she was awarded first prize for journalistic excellence organized by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Reporting Network (BIRN). Her work has also been published in magazines and news portals such as Nulačetvorka, Cunterview, Kulturpunkt, Op.a, Grazia, and Libela. She regularly writes for the portal ZaMirZINE, concentrating on women’s rights and their treatment in the media. Her first collection of short stories, Pobjeđuje onaj kojem je manje stalo (He Wins Who Cares Less), was published in 2010.- from Best European Fiction, 2012.

Mel u













"Maria" - A Short Story by Dacia Maraini (1963, in Translation 1989)







Works I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

1.  "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam
4. "Maria" by Dacia Maraini- Translated from Italian



"Maria", translated by Martha King, is a very moving deftly done story that in just a few pages shows us the prejudices faced by a lesbian couple in Italy in the early 1960 while making us feel they are anchored in particularized reality.

Maria is still sleeping when the narrator quietly slips out of bed to go to her office job at an automobile factory.  The noise at the job is so loud she has to shout to speak to other office workers.  In just a few paragraphs we come to understand her very harsh work environment, we feel her eyes lingering on a young factory woman whose legs remind her of Maria.  When she returns home the apartment is a total mess.  In these beautiful lines we can feel the power of Maraini in her rendering of Maria's thoughts on their then socially unacceptable relationship:

"Maria has a very nice voice. Sometimes, while I wash, clean, put the house in order, she sits on a stool in the bedroom next to the window so she can get the sun on her back, and she talks to me like I wasn’t there. Often I can’t even follow her reasoning, which is deep and complicated, but I lose myself in her voice, which is clear and light and musical like a bird’s. We eat in the kitchen. Maria sits across from me and greedily eats everything I put on her plate. But she doesn’t look at what she eats, because she is thinking; then her face acquires that distracted and worried look so familiar to me. “Have you ever thought what love is between two women?” “No.” “There must be a reason, don’t you think?”   “Why should I love you instead of a man? Why should I make love to you instead of a man?” “I don’t know. Because you like to.” “But why do I like to?” “I don’t know. Because you love me.” “Oh, fine, you fool. But why?” “I really don’t know.” “I think that men and women don’t want to make love together any more so they won’t make children. There are too many of us.” “Do you want some more cod?” She nods yes. She brings to her mouth a big piece of cod –the most economical kind and therefore fatter and more thready –without paying any attention to its taste."

As was very common in Italy in the time, Maria is very left wing.  She lectures the narrator about how her bosses are getting rich from her work.

Normally I'm disinclined to tell the close of the stories upon which I post but as this story cannot be read online and the ending is so powerful I will proceed.

Maria's ultra conservative father, a farmer, has her locked up in a mental hospital because of her sexuality.  We feel the great sadness and pain of the narrator as she goes about the now empty routine of her existence.  After a week she takes a bus ride to the mental hospital:

"A week later I return to visit her. They tell me she has gone away. I’m happy and get ready to go back home when a fat blond girl comes up to tell me that Maria has killed herself. Immediately after she bursts into a gloomy, stupid laugh. I don’t know whether to believe her or not. Then, when the sister takes her by the wrist and drags her away screaming, I know that it’s true."



I read this story in anthology perfect for Women in Translation Month, New Italian: A Collection of Short Fiction, edited and introduced by Martha King.


Dacia Maraini

Born
in Fiesole, Tuscany, Italy
November 13, 1936

Dacia Maraini is an Italian writer. She is the daughter of Sicilian Princess Topazia Alliata di Salaparuta, an artist and art dealer, and of Fosco Maraini, a Florentine ethnologist and mountaineer of mixed Ticinese, English and Polish background who wrote in particular on Tibet and Japan. Maraini's work focuses on women’s issues, and she has written numerous plays and novels.

Alberto Moravia was her partner from 1962 until 1983.

Mel u


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"A Home Near the Sea" - A Short Story by Kamala Das








Works I have read so far for Women In Translation Month - August, 2017

1.  "Happy New Year" by Ajaat Cour - Translated from Punjabi
2. "The Floating Forest" by Natsuo Kirino- Translated from Japanese
3. " A Home Near the Sea" by Kamala Das - Translated from Malayalam



"A Home Near the Sea" is the third short story by Kamala Das upon which I have posted.  In 2011 I read her "Flight", in 2015 I read "Sweet Milk", which can be read online in Little Magazine.  (My post has a link.) Both of these stories center on a marriage, as does today's story.  "A Home Near the Sea" was translated by Khushwant Singh from the Malayalam language, one of the official languages of India, spoken by 35 million in Southern India.

As the story opens Arumgugham's wife, during a frequent quarrel brought on by him losing a decent job because he was drunk at work, has just hit him in the head.  This has happened before and he has learned to suppress his anger. Because of this they have been homeless for a year or so:

"They had been homeless for nearly a year. He liked the languor of this life but feared the monsoons and the days when no edible food would be found in the garbage heap outside the Ritz Hotel. Hunger always picked up quarrels with him and abused him again and again for having got drunk enough to lose a fine lucrative job. True, he had been irresponsible. Why, on paydays he used to stop at Anna’s paan shop and drink five glasses of hooch which went down like a sword of fire and made him confident. To remove the smell from his mouth, he ate two paans filled with brown chunam and tobacco bits...."

The wife is telling her story to a young beggar man.  She tells him she was once young and comely, with a rich suitor but because of her husband she had lost her youth and beauty.  The man suggests she should look for a job as an Ayah, a helper for the children of a rich family.  He tells her she would get four meals a day and the work would be light.  Of course she longs for this but feels it is beyond her reach.
She begins to almost flirt with the younger man. Such jobs were most often done by women from a Dalit Caste (Untouchable).  Their membership such a caste is confirmed below:

"‘Whose fault is it that I do not own a house?’ continued the wife shrilly. ‘You sold my ornaments. You lost your job. And we were pushed out of our hut. Who was at fault? You or I? Was I not always a dutiful wife to you? I have not slept around with other men like other women of the slum who waited for their husbands to leave for work to begin waving out to passengers on the slow train. I did not want to earn that kind of money. This good-for-nothing man of mine brought me nothing. Not even on Diwali day did he get me a new sari! I suffered in silence. But now I have turned bitter. I talk back to him. I even hit him when he irritates me.’"

Inexpensive prostitutes in India were normally Dalits.  The woman suggests the man stay with them, they know where to find food from the garbage of nice hotels.

The young man begins to talk to her of music, he can sing beautifully.  She begins to cry.  As the story ends, the woman gives their only blanket to the departing man. Her husband is very mad.

One of the stated goals of this Women in Translation Month for 2017 is to focus on literature about marginalized women, short stories about Dalit women are the epitome of such works.


Kerala Das (1934 to 2009-Punnayurklam, Malabar District, India) was born  into a sucessful and prominent family.   Her mother was a famous poet, her father was  involved in the marketing of Rolls Royces and Bentleys in all of India. She also wrote in English but her short stories, which will be her lasting legacy, were in Malayalam.    She also had a weekly newspaper column for many years in which she discussed issues relating to the lives and rights of women.   She wrote about,  at the time,  near forbidden topics such as the sexuality of women.   She was socially and politically active.   At one time she was director of the forestry commission for the Malabar district.  She ran for Parliament and lost.  In 1989 she converted from Hinduisms to Islam.   She changed her name to "Kamala  Suraiyya.     Her work has been translated into French, English, Spanish, Russian, Japanese and several other South Asian Languages.

Mel u