The Tyranny of History
In this essay, one of two runners-up in the 2018 THRESHOLDS International Short Fiction Feature Writing Competition, FARAH AHAMED examines the shifting nature of political and historical events in satirical short stories by R.K. Narayan and Ivan Vladislavic.
If, one wintry afternoon, you were to find yourself walking in Bloomsbury, and you decided to take a stroll in Tavistock Square, you might see a woman in a black winter coat and red hat standing in front of the monument in the middle of the square. Nothing unusual about that, you might say, except that, if you were to stare long enough you might see her dusting the snow from the statue, removing dead flowers from its neck and replacing them with a fresh garland. If you were to go closer and observe more carefully, you would see her wiping away the cobwebs from the statue’s ears and nostrils, and lighting candles in the hollow base of the pedestal. If you were curious enough to walk around the monument, you would find yourself looking at the sculpture of an emaciated, half-naked old man, seated in a posture of contemplation. Peer at the inscription, and you would discover it is none other than: Mahatma Gandhi.
If by chance you pass through the square on International Women’s Day and see the purple-and-green banner, More Statues of Women, on the railings near the statue of Virginia Woolf, you might ask yourself: after fifty years in the square, should Gandhi be replaced by the statue of a woman who changed history? And if so, what would happen to the monument of him?…
The short story, Poached Eggs, is the joint winner inaugural Gerald Kraak Award. Featured in Pride and Prejudice Anthology, published by The Other Foundation, (South Africa).
Pride and Prejudice is a collection of the short-listed entries to the inaugural award, named after Gerald Kraak (1956–2014), who was a passionate champion of social justice and an anti-apartheid activist.
Poached Eggs is described as a subtle, slow and careful rendering of the everyday rhythms of domestic terror that pays homage to the long history of women’s resistance; yet with wit and humour and grit, the story also sings of freedom, of resistance and the desire to be unbound.
The Helper of Cattle
The Helper of Cattle, a short story commissioned by Comma Press for Conradology; Celebrating the work of Joseph Conrad. Available for purchase.
Born in what is now Ukraine to Polish parents, naturalised as a British citizen, and schooled on the high seas of international commerce, Joseph Conrad was a true citizen of the world. His novels bore witness to the dehumanising repercussions of empire, explored a world in which state-sponsored terrorism ruined individuals’ lives, and pioneered complex narrative structures and subjective points-of-view in what was to become the first wave of literary modernism.
To mark his 160th birthday, 14 authors and critics from Britain, Poland and elsewhere have come together to celebrate his legacy with new pieces of fiction and non-fiction…
A Clump of Nsenenes
Short story, A Clump of Nsenenes, shortlisted for The Sunderland Waterstones Short Story Award (UK).
A Safe Place
Short story, A Safe Place, shortlisted for The British Asian Writer Award. Published in Dividing Lines Anthology, Dahlia Press(UK). Available for purchase.
Short story, Poached Eggs, shortlisted for The London Short Story Award Anthology, Kingston University Press (UK).
Reading Sadat Hassan Manto in an age of dislocation
Essay, Reading Sadat Hassan Manto in an age of dislocation, highly commended in the Thresholds Awards (UK).
Saadat Hassan Manto was born in 1912 in the Punjab, British India. After the Partition in 1947, he migrated to Pakistan where he died in 1955. During his short life he produced twenty-two collections of short stories, one novel, five series of radio plays, three collections of essays, and two collections of personal sketches. He always wrote in Urdu but some of his most famous works have been translated into English. He is now considered to be one of the best short story writers from South Asia, and in 2015 a biographical drama film Manto was released celebrating his life and work.
Like D.H. Lawrence, to whom he has frequently been compared, Manto was a popular but also controversial character because of what he wrote about and the explicit nature of his language. His stories, usually satirical in tone and minimalist in style, were published at a time when both India and Pakistan were very conservative. They explore the taboo aspects of relationships such as sex and violence, and also depict the socio-political features of a culture that constrained and harmed both men and women. These were published in his series Letters to Uncle Sam and Nehru. Many of his writings were banned by both Indian and Pakistani governments for being unpalatable, but he continued to write in his own style about the darker aspects of life…
The breaking of silence: Shashi Deshpande
Shashi Deshpande is an important contemporary voice amongst Indian writers and her works have received acclaim for her realistic representation of middle-class Indian women.
She was born in 1938 in Dharwad, India, the second daughter of a playwright. When she was fifteen she moved to Mumbai to study Economics and then to Bangalore to read Law and Journalism. In the 1960s she began writing short stories about the societal and cultural systems that constrained individual freedoms in India. Her writing explores the conflict between authority and freedom, as well as negotiating gender stereotypes, and, although her stories are unmistakably Indian, the themes she addresses are universal: self-revelation, social reality and dogma, spiritual and traditional values, family life, romance and the subordinate role of women. She depicts the anguish of the modern educated Indian woman, caught between patriarchy and tradition on the one hand, and self-expression and autonomy on the other. Her protagonists seek individual fulfilment, independent of traditionally ascribed roles within the family: daughter, wife and mother…
The Tabla Player
Short story, The Tabla Player, published in The Massachusetts Review Special Edition on Music (USA). Available for purchase.
Short story, Dr Patel, published in Out Of Print.
Dr Patel ran his finger along the back of his collar and down the length of his tie. Smoothing out the striped navy blue and yellow silk with its embroidered Club crests, he rolled the tie half way up his shirt, then unrolling it, pressed it down on his belly. He made his way to the front of the reception hall that was filled with tables covered in white cloths, ornate flower arrangements and candelabras, till he got as close as he could to the head table. There he pulled out a chair and sat down to wait for the bride and groom, as if he were part of their family.
He was, as usual, too early. He was particular about timing. He hated being kept waiting himself, and so he made a point never to be late. But no one in Nairobi’s high society appreciated the finer aspects of his character, his sense of propriety and his polished etiquette. Dr Patel sighed, caressing the silky fabric of his tie, from the knot to the bottom. He was glad he’d decided to wear it, even though the famous crest and stripes design was never recognised and no one had ever asked him about his membership with the Club…