19 June 14 | Kaija Straumanis

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Will Eells on Bombay Stories, translated by Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad, and out from Vintage International.

For those of you who are regulars, you may remember Will’s name—he’s a former student of Chad’s at the University of Rochester, budding translator of Japanese, semi-regular Three Percent reviewer, and is a man who does a mean snake-head dance. He is unstoppable.

Anyway, here’s the beginning of Will’s review (and yes, we wish we had a video of his snake dance):

I must admit upfront that I went into reading Saadat Hasan Manto’s Bombay Stories almost entirely blind. I have not read Salman Rushdie. I have read, perhaps, two short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. I might shamefully add that I really only remember the barest details of Gandhi’s life and deeds. I can say, in the humblest of humblebrags, that I did read Intizar Husain’s Basti, a book I certainly might not have if not for its inclusion on the “2013 Best Translated Book Award longlist”: http://www.rochester.edu/College/translation/threepercent/index.php?id=6532. That book, more than anything, made me somewhat—an emphatically underlined, italicized, all-caps, incorrectly-used quotation marked “SOMEWHAT”—more educated of the events surrounding India and Pakistan’s violent schism in the 1940s.

But perhaps you are on equally unfamiliar terrain. Or perhaps not: maybe you were one of the many who read Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, which would most likely make you yet more knowledgeable of India in the 20th century than I, because I didn’t read that one either (by the way, this is the part of the review where I wow you with my credentials). However, if I were a betting man, I would wager that I am in the majority when it comes to the American readership in regard to South Asian literature: an absolute novice.

It is precisely why I jumped at the chance to read this collection. I could barely know less about the Indian subcontinent if I tried. But the point of reading international fiction at all, as far as I’m concerned, is precisely to experience and learn about a place, a culture, a history of which I am only dimly aware. I can only imagine that this is true for many of you, who so adventurously clicked on the link to get here. Great job, by the way! You and I are going to be good friends, I can tell. And for the Manto-educated, fan or otherwise, surprised to see him getting some attention today: I’m going to be ignoring you. Sorry about that.

For the rest of the review, go here.


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