and Other Stories
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A collection of short fiction examining the lives of 21st-century Indians.

Set both abroad and in a fictional city in India’s Kerala state, Ajay’s slim debut attempts to navigate the disjuncture in identity that occurs in a fragmented, post-colonial world. Divided into sections titled “At Home” and “In Exile,” the stories follow Kerala residents through quiet moments in their daily lives: A man searching for his missing father meets a mortuary assistant whose son committed suicide; a corporate drone receives a strange email that leads to a dialogue with the man’s spiritual opposite. The strongest stories are slice-of-life narratives that obliquely explore the affects of diaspora, such as the title story, which describes the narrator’s encounter with an Indian who returns home after having spent three years in the United States working with the SETI project. The prose is illustrative and, at times, beautiful–the author’s experience as a poet is evident–but the collection is inconsistent. Many of the stories are not fully developed, and the weakest among them, such as a neo-Platonic dialogue between a murderer and his friend, rehash well-worn philosophical territory. Others, such as one in which an author meets one of his characters–a clichéd premise first inspired by Luigi Pirandello and beaten to death by postmodernists–or a sketch in which the narrator sits next to Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska on a tour bus, seem little more than writing exercises. Still, the best of these pieces demonstrate a sensibility and a promise that will hopefully be realized in the future.

More misses than hits, but heralds a bright future.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2006
ISBN: 81-88811-42-4
Program: Kirkus Indie
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