Literary Micro-fiction

Rachna Joshi

By Sudeep Sen
Penguin, Year 2017, pp.240, Rs.399


What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space. —Italo Calvino   This is how Sudeep Sen introduces his book Ero Text to us. He brings together texts set in five sections—‘desire, disease, delusion, dream and downpour’. These pieces cross genres and boundaries of short prose, experimental fiction and poetry. Apart from the bulk of his micro-fiction—like a musician improvising on the same raga, Sudeep reworks a few of his old poems into prose as well. It is a collection rich with influences and allusions. The section ‘Disease’ deals with private and uncomfortable areas of pain, illness and disease. From scientific and medical imagery that proliferates in this section, he recreates pain and suffering. He writes, ‘My body is a terrain that defies the contour of safe plotting—indices like Celsius, Fahrenheit, torque are all inadequate—just as bone marrow count, triglyceride, HDL, LDL do not form pretty, explainable equations.’ The ‘Desire’ section deals with the unfolding of shringara rasa. Explicating the title of the book Ero Text, it exemplifies the tradition of erotic literature found in India since ancient times, as seen both in the Kama Sutra and in Khajuraho sculptures. This section is rich with metaphors, connotations and allusions. In the piece ‘Heather’, he writes: ‘I feel parched like the sea-salt gauze. My tongue is parched in spite of your lavender saliva, saliva which has changed from the bouquet to the taste of heather, wild weather-ravaged heather.’ Sen evokes various allusions and references—Sappho, Carson, Winterson and the ancient Tamil poets, ‘who wrote about love and lust, the erotic and the spiritual, with equal fervour—no hierarchy, no shame, just celebration, pure instinct, pure blood, pure ice.’ In ‘Odissi’, he writes about the subtle eroticism of a dancer’s art. Throughout these passages, he shows and subtly brings out the nuances of the dancer and classical dance, ‘Stone and flesh are one, silk and sweat are one, heart and head are one, male and female are one, one is one, she is one.’ Many of the pieces are short, tight, meditative, gripping texts that can be classified both as micro-fiction and prose poems. There are references to Tagore, Jessore and Dhaka in ‘Wo/Man’, ‘Lines of Desire’ and ‘Gaayika’r Chithi: ‘Notes from a Singer’s Scoresheet’, where he speaks of ...

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