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Best of 2018: Short story collections

By January 26, 2019No Comments

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Six collections of short stories that engage with the world in their own distinctive styles.


A Day in the Life

Anjum Hasan

The stories in this collection all share protagonists who are at odds with the world or with the lives they are leading, marked by an immediately recognisable listlessness and dissonance with what’s around them: a retiree grows restless with the bickering family that moves in next door, a woman grapples with the final, mundane stages of grief, a wife finds herself disgusted by her husband’s meat-eating. Crafted with consummate skill by Hasan, these stories, set mostly in and around Bengaluru, are moving, wry, occasionally devastating and handled with the utmost empathy.


To Die in Benares

K Madavane

This unusual, haunting collection of short stories, translated from French by Blake Smith, defies easy slotting into a genre. The seven macabre stories talk about death in different ways – a deadly attempt to climb a tamarind tree, a woman waiting to die on the banks of the Ganga – with experiments in form and style. Prose, poetry, dialogue all sit together in these evocative tales about people and experiences that are rarely written about.


Half Gods

Akil Kumarasamy

A startling and captivating debut, this book of interlinked short stories mostly follow a Sri Lankan family in the United States, including the two brothers, Karna And Arjun. Told through different narrators, a vivid picture emerges not only of how they view the world, but also each other. Beautifully written and fiercely enquiring, the stories also raise the evergreen question of the political responsibility of literature.


When I Hid My Caste

Baburao Bagul

First published in 1963 in Marathi as Jevha Mi Jat Chorali, Baburao Bagul’s collection of short stories stirred up a storm with their forceful and unapologetic depiction of the insidiousness of caste. Finally translated into English 45 years later by Jerry Pinto, this landmark book throbs with a searing power and sure-footed indictment of a system of oppression.


Ambiguity Machines

Vandana Singh

A poor woman is held captive in a submerged Kolkata because of her ability to look into the past. An eleventh century poet is resurrected to be an artificially intelligent companion on a spaceship. A syncretic empire of steampunk wonders follows the Mughals in a revised historical telling. This collection of deeply-imagined speculative short stories burst with political subtext, a deep humanity and a hypnotic upending of the art of storytelling, while being distinctly set within a South Asian milieu. Combined with Singh’s work as a scientist, they simultaneously act as a wakeup call, through vivid scenario-building, about some of the most pressing issues that plague our planet.



Lauren Groff

A short story collection that is ostensibly about the American state of Florida – and indeed all the stories are set in “The Sunshine State” – Lauren Groff’s magnificent book is in fact a dark, meditative intermingling of the natural world and humans. In this lyrical collection, two girls are abandoned on a fishing island, a man is stuck on a canoe, a woman stays in her house through a hurricane, all stories coloured by a tinge of dystopia and pointing with elegant defiance to the delicacy of our lives.

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