Collected Short Stories by Naiyer Masud: This is a collection of the writer’s well-loved Urdu stories in translation, including stories like ‘Sheesha Ghar’, ‘The Mynah of the Peacock Garden’ and ‘Ganjeefa’. His stories defy traditional expectations from the genre. Much like the buildings in his stories, these are verbal architecture, taking their own time to reveal themselves, a little at a time, sans the embellishment. He’s a master storyteller who weaves the strange with the real such that one overlays the other, what is ‘real’ questioned and inverted through the other.
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro: The book uses myth, history and fantasy for a narrative about memory, its absence and the uncertain consequence of its permanent loss or eventual return. Either way the repercussions on society in which past foes live together can be climactic. Along the way we have ogres, legends, monsters, a dragon whose breath creates the memory-stealing haze, all of this set in post-Arthurian Britain and its mythical past.
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: The book comes to mind with renewed relevance vis-à-vis contemporary stories of migrants and their dilemmas and struggles; only in the pandemic era, we have reverse migration. The book tells the story of the Joad family during the Great Depression of the 1930s and their travails as they journey from Oklahoma through the dust lands looking for work and sustenance. It’s a novel about the struggles of migrant farmworkers as much as it is about the tenacity of the human spirit.
I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops by Hanan Al-Shaykh: It is a collection of 17 stories that explore the lives of Arabs caught between tradition and modernity, between childhood and adolescence, between ethics and commerce, between submission and rebellion. Told simply and with compassion, these stories explore the underbelly of society as also the facades that create this along with the occasional touch of humour laced with understanding.
Andal: The Autobiography of a Goddess, translated and edited by Priya Sarukkai Chabria and Ravi Shankar: The book presents the corpus of Andal’s compositions translated separately and collaboratively by the two poets. The translators bring to the compositions a modern eclectic that sets up a conversation full of deep yearning, passionate love, intense devotion and wilful surrender. The dual approach is interesting in that they bring personal idioms to and engagement with the ancient verses, allowing the reader to look at the images and feel the passion in diverse ways in order to derive her own interpretation from it.