23 September, 2020

Shadow Lines

These gossamer stories linger

Shadow Lines
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us..., Franz Kafka once wrote to a friend. The fictional world of Urdu and Persian scholar Naiyer Masud who has scribbled 22 short stories in 25 years, and in the same period translated 20 Kafka parables (Kakfa ke Afsane)would more than qualify.

A world which may not be as nightmarish as Joseph K's in The Trial, but is not any less elusive. Life and death, experience and being, the whirligig of timeeach of his stories is merely a variation of a single theme. Intangible and eternal, his fiction has no fixed boundaries. There's no beginning or end. Because life is like thatcircular. Masud stays off the expected, the effable and the ordinary in each of these stories and lends an air of unreality to the real (Sheesha Ghat); a sense of timelessness to the temporal (Interregnum).

Each narrative evokes old-world Lucknow, where he has lived all his life. So you have intricate details of some grand Avadh mansion, may be a single carved door; or some insight into the life of hakeems (Nosh...



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