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Uma Iyengar

Edited by K.S. Duggal
ICCR, 1975, 210, 35.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 2 April - June 1976

Edgar Allan Poe declared that the definitive cha­racteristic of the short story was its unity of effect and said that the short story writer, ‘if wise, has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents, but having conceived, with deliberate care a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out he then invents such incidents—­he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect.’ Hence Duggal was not being very contemporary when he said that the structuring of stories according to plot is outmoded and the stories may be actually structured round a psychological rather than physical effect. The reader is somewhat puzzled by the choice of this particular set of short stories. The editor seems to have lost sight of two of the essential factors governing the compilation of an anthology—it must be representa­tive of the contemporary tenor, and that it must make good reading. We are told that ‘Ours is the age of short story. It is the short story which best portrays the peculiar personality of the modern man.’ Which particular aspects of the modern man this collec­tion highlights is anybody's guess. The accent seems to be on perversities, far-fetched psychological hang-ups or plain melodrama. It is not possible to critically evaluate all the stories in a short review; so let us examine a few. The book begins with Upendra Nath Ashk's The Nuptial Bed: Keshi the hero, or shall we say the central figure is unable to consummate his marriage on his wedding night, as he was occupying his mother's bed which was promised to him as a child as a compensation for not being able to marry his mother (the bedroom too had been thrown in as a consolation prize). So he takes his bride for a walk, hoping that the moonlight would rectify matters, when his attempts at love-making are thwarted by the head-lights of a convoy of trucks. Finally unable to bear his wife's stony looks, he breaks into his own dowry-laden room and having let out his frustrations through the broken pane, consummates his marriage. Vishnu Prabhakar's Beyond the Flesh is a long drawn out and complicated attempt at describing the psychological complexities of the human mind. It is full of meaningless conversation like this: ‘I can only be one thing—a wife or an inspiration.’ ‘Can't a wife inspire one's ...

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