(Paper-2) 20th Century Indian Writing
The Short Stories
The uniqueness of Indian Literature lies in the fact that while we may talk of it as one single entity yet it comprises of a myriad literatures coming from different geographical regions and written in different languages. At the same time they all belong to the same country. Diversity and oneness thus go hand in hand. To make an attempt to read and understand this vast literature poses a unique problem therefore, since one is not necessarily well versed in all Indian languages. An exercise in translation however, can make that body of literature available to us. The six Indian short story writers whose works have been selected for your course this year also come from various regions of India and excepting R K Narayan they all write in different Indian languages. The stories therefore come to you as translated versions of the original.Beginning with Premchand, the great stalwart of Hindi literature, going on to R K Narayan, Basheer Manto,Ismat Chughtai and Ambai these writers and their stories make apparent the wide range of themes, style, form, technique and character of this unique literature. Various scholars and critics have written on these writers and you will find their ideas included in the ensuing analysis of the prescribed stories.
The first chapter of this study material introduces you to the genre of the short story and traces its growth from the beginnings in the oral tradition to its present popular form. An important section of this chapter highlights the things we have to look for in a short story and thus introduces you to various techniques at play. The second chapter focuses on the short story in the Indian context and attempts a broad overview of how the short story developed in the various regions of India and what were the major concerns and how these underwent a change with the passage of time to include new themes and issues being generated by political, social and historical changes. The chapters subsequent to the first two bring you a detailed analysis of the individual stories along with an introduction to the writer and his/her milieu.
There are any numbers of books and articles available which provide information on the genre of the short story, on the story in the Indian context and also on the individual writers and their works.Those that proved helpful in the preparation of this study material, however, are either mentioned in the course of the writing or are included in Appendix II with a detailed bibliographical listing. If you are interested in reading further in this area then this list of suggested books would facilitate your efforts.
As you have to read a translated version of these stories it would be advisable if you use a reliable translation. The one recommended for your course is the Anthology brought out by the Oxford University Press titled Modern Indian Literature: Poems and Short Stories. This Anthology includes all the prescribed poems and short stories and the same come to you with useful annotations.
Dr. Neeta Gupta
Department of English