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Oriya Short Fiction In Translation

Sumanyu Satpathy

By K.C. Das Translated by Phyllis Granoff
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2000, pp. ix 164, price not stated.

By J.P. Das Translated by Rabindra K. Swain and Paul St. Pierre
Rupa, New Delhi, 2004, pp. vii 181, price not stated.


Kishori Charan Das (1924-2004) passed away recently. A winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1976, he shot to prominence with his first story collection, Bhanga Khelana (1961). He graduated from Patna University in 1942. Subsequently, he obtained a Master’s in History from the same university. Later, he joined the Indian Audit and Accounts Service from which he retired in 1982. All this while, of course, he indefatigably pursued a literary career. Apart from the 20 short story collections, and four novels, he also wrote poetry. He translated some of his own and other’s writings, including Arun Joshi’s The Last Labyrinth and Nayantara Sehgal’s Rich like Us.   The short story, Flanner O’Connor said, is “one of the most natural and fundamental ways of human expression.” This may equally be true of poetry, and might explain why short fiction and poetry, rather than novels and plays, dominate the Oriya literary scene. Another possible reason behind such a lopsided production scene could also be the annual ritual of the Puja sankhyas (an obvious influence from neighbouring Bengal). For, under pressure from editors of literary magazines established and budding Oriya poets and short storywriters start writing at a frenetic pace around March-April to be able to catch the printer in time for inclusion in the prestigious Puja numbers. Old hands in the business like Jhankara (established by Harekrushna Mahatab sometime in the 1950s) net the most famous names, the lesser ones thriving on the generosity of a few well-established authors. Is there a demand-supply logic governing the ritual? To a limited extent yes and the more established magazines make a profit. Also, thanks to the advertising era, the others which do not sell well, also break even, and even make a small profit. Over the years, the latter have mushroomed in Orissa. The upcoming authors are happy, so are the editors and publishers. Hurriedly written and unedited, many are crude and editors hardly ever live up to their designation. In a couple of seasons, many of these authors find that they have written enough to put together a collection. All other factors remaining comparable in the other Indian languages, this explains the prolificacy of Oriya writers. This might also explain why most Oriya authors are primarily short story writers or poets, and why the quality of writing even among the best is uneven, and among the less gifted quite poor. Only a few ...

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