Free Press Journal

A Faceless Evening and other stories: Short Stories by Gangadhar Gadgil and Keerti Ramachandra- Review


Book: A Faceless Evening and Other Short Stories
Author: Gangadhar Gadgil
Translated from Marathi to English Keerti Ramchandra
Publisher: Ratna Books
Pages: 201; Price: Rs 299


Gangadhar Gadgil, renowned author in the Marathi literary world is rightly credited as a pioneer for introducing modern trends in short story writing. His writings influenced few decades of Marathi literature and lots of young authors. It was a pleasant surprise to find a book of his short stories, A Faceless Evening and other short stories, published in English. He has written a few stories in English, but this is his first collection of short stories translated in English.

Translating short stories, or for that matter, any genre of literature in a regional language to another language, especially English, is an onerous task, as mere word to word translation kills the flow of language and peculiarities of the cultural background of the writing. However, Ratna Publication, which is devoted to introducing classic literature from Indian regional languages to English has done a remarkable job of bringing out essence of Gadgil’s writings in English.

Gadgil, born and brought up in a typical Maharashtrian locality of Girgaon in Mumbai, chronicled the changing face of the city through British Raj to fast urbanisation of a metropolis. His stories are mostly woven around concerns and aspirations of middle class Maharashtrians, though Gadgil himself was fully aware of other side of corporate world as an economist.

A Faceless Evening is a representative collection featuring fourteen short stories by Gadgil in English, which indicate the early sowing of seeds of transformation of Mumbai from a sleepy textile harbour city to a metropolis, a kind of melting pot of India due to large scale migration of people from all corners of the country. Mumbai was, and has remained, a kind of Eldorado due to its capacity to provide jobs and glitter of Bollywood. Gadgil was perhaps first Marathi author to capture nuances of changing Mumbai more sensitively than others in his own style full of humour and poignancy, sentiment and cynicism. As one goes through his stories one admires his brutal attack on evils of exploitative society with a sharp incisive vision. He explored life in Mumbai of early 50s and 60s while introducing Marathi short stories to different level through his playful, crazy sometimes simple, but absurd expressions.

Recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award for his autobiographical writings, Gadgil’s stories are not merely relevant to the academics of Marathi literature, but one finds a fresh breeze of life as one reads his select short stories. Though written decades ago, they appear very contemporary in approach and content mainly due to fact though Mumbai sky line has changed beyond recognition, but essentially the struggle and angst of the middle class has remained same, though one may find outward changes. Due to his deep understanding of middle class psychology and socio-economic changes, which were taking place slowly when Gadgil was writing these stories, they have become far more relevant even today as a part of urban angst. Gadgil is a master of narratives of the chawls, ushering of love stories during hustle and bustle of local train travel, crowded restaurants and constant struggle to get financial security.

The author seems to be fascinated with train journey and some of the most fascinating stories are narrated along with heat and dust of a travel, especially the first story that runs along a long-distance train journey, unfolding tension between man and a woman who were in relationship years ago. The author does not give solution, but just an indirect hint of possibility of a tranquil future.

Wry humour, details of surroundings across the narrative of The Wan Moon, make the story stand out when a labour couple with their three children are travelling to an uncertain future. While going through stories like The Two, All for You, Fleeting Reflections, readers get a feeling that the author is taking them for a big ride and giving them glimpses into different kind of world, through his witty, funny, acerbic, sharp and incisive words.

Keerti Ramachandra, is a professional translator from Marathi, Kannada and Hindi into English. She has taken great care to keep the flow of stories intact without making any compromises on the way author has depicted the characters with minute details. Much to her credit, she has maintained the essence of Gadgil’s style. The book is a great treat for Gadgil fans and equally enchanting for introduction to an author who pioneered a new class of Marathi short stories.