17 June, 2021

A Tragedy Brought By Raag Lalit

These tales, set in small-town Assam, speak of torments and desires, and are soaked in music

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A Tragedy Brought By Raag Lalit

Varied styles mark out the modern masters of the short story—the compressed richness of Alice Munro and Tessa Hadley, the dialogic profundity of Raymond Carver and James Salter, the pulsating rhythms of Richard Ford and Lorrie Moore and the impressionistic allusiveness of the recently deceased Irishman, William Trevor. But Mitra Phukan is not a stylist; she tells her stories in a simple, direct style.

All of her stories in this collection are set in and around small-town Assam, though the author is niggardly in giving much local detail. Most have a deep anguish hanging over them, and trauma and sadness are borne into the narratives by characters. Phukan’s women are often wronged, or lonely; the men are often in thrall of weaknesses they helplessly pander to. Instincts, natural and supernatural, often drive events; swiftly moving prose drives headlong towards a satisfying resolution. All this is a counterpoint to the untarnished charm of small-town Assam, places of great scenic, and serene, beauty. Assam’s troubled years of insurgency, and its usual...

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