A substantial collection from an important writer.

THE DOG OF TITHWAL

STORIES

A celebrated Urdu writer’s posthumously collected short stories illuminate the human cost and the absurdity of the India-Pakistan Partition.

Manto, widely regarded as the foremost Urdu short story writer of the 20th century, writes tales of brutality, possession, and innocence. These translations of his work by Hasan and Memon illustrate the writer’s ability to regard everyone—crooks, the upper class, politicians, soldiers, housewives, and prostitutes—with an eye trained on humanity. Manto’s characters are forced to consider themselves anew as blood is shed and political boundaries are redrawn. The collection begins with “Kingdom’s End,” in which a series of seemingly random phone calls forces Manmohan to evaluate his life. “Do you like your life?” the caller asks him. He replies: “Give me a few moments....The truth is, I’ve never thought about it.” Manto’s stories often end with a twist, though, so Manmohan’s self-reflection is quickly made difficult. Manto frequently takes on both the divisions created by religion and the vows that people make to each other. In “Two-Nation Theory” and “For Freedom’s Sake,” lovers from different backgrounds are challenged by their unsustainable promises. “As long as India does not win freedom,” the husband says in the latter, “Nigar and I will live not as husband and wife but as friends.” The promise becomes a problem. Occasionally Manto’s purposes are more transparently allegorical, as in the title story, which succeeds in highlighting the atrocities and stupidities of war: When a stray dog crosses battle lines, soldiers on both sides debate its religion and immediately begin to torment the animal. Prostitutes are a frequent subject of Manto’s stories, though their worth is generally defined through male characters’ visions of their physical beauty. Each story makes Manto’s argument plain: Partition divided families and identities, and yet life continued to flourish.

A substantial collection from an important writer.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953861-00-9

Page Count: 418

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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A guidebook to growing old without a single regret for victims who deserved just what they got.

AN ELDERLY LADY MUST NOT BE CROSSED

STORIES

Six more adventures of Maud, the retired language teacher who meets life’s vicissitudes with a refreshingly homicidal approach.

En route to a luxury vacation in South Africa, Maud recalls half a dozen earlier times when her generally untroubled life was threatened by someone who ended up coming to grief. “An Elderly Lady Begins To Remember Her Past” rehashes her latest foray into criminal violence and her satisfying escape from Tursten’s franchise detective, Inspector Irene Huss. “Little Maud Sets a Trap” takes her back to her childhood, when she sticks up for her neurasthenic older sister, Charlotte, by taking condign, though not yet murderous, revenge on the boys who’ve bullied her. “Lancing a Boil” shows how Maud, now a substitute teacher, deals with her demotion when the regular teacher she’s replaced seeks to return to the classroom. “The Truth About Charlotte” recalls Charlotte’s sad demise, which leaves Maud much wealthier and freer to accrue an even larger income and begin her world travels. Maud smartly relieves her longtime neighbor, seamstress Elsa Petrén, of the problems her wastrel son has stuck her with in “The Peter Pan Problem.” And when she finally arrives at her destination in “An Elderly Lady Takes a Trip to Africa,” the longest and most deliberately plotted of these stories, she gets to display an unaccustomed generosity, even magnanimity, to an impoverished family brought even lower by a crime Maud is more than happy to avenge. Readers may want to think twice before sampling the appended naughty-and-nice cookie recipes.

A guidebook to growing old without a single regret for victims who deserved just what they got.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-641-29167-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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