Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Fidelity by itself is a kill-joy virtue

An unseasonal fruit The HarperCollins Book of Oriya Short Stories, 1998, Reviewer: DEVDAS CHHOTRAY Biblio MAY - JUNE 1999
Early in life, when I would plunge into reading of classics translated into the vernacular, particularly Oriya, and find large tracts unreadable, someone consoled me by saying that translation is a woman who is either faithful or beautiful, but seldom both. As I grew up, and relished more bawdy jokes, and read more Oscar Wilde, I too believed that it is better to be good looking than good; and fidelity by itself is a kill-joy virtue.
Therefore, I veered away from reading of translated works, more so when it dealt with Oriya, on account of its insufficient osmosis, which occured often. The other reason that did not exactly spur me to grab the Harper Collins Book of Oriya Short Stories (for instant reading) is the fact that most of the stories selected from works of veteran writers have become well-worn, after years of reading in school texts, and thus the curiosity was halved. So the book was left on the table after a brief rummage, which accounts for its delayed review.
What however brought me back again and again to the book is the lure of the cover by Brinda Datta, a jacket draped in the conch shell motif of traditional Oriya sarees in an aquamarine shade, unostentatious but elegant, which no Oriya can resist. Besides, my young son, who is much less an Oriya by upbringing, and hardly tied to books, greatly surprised me by devouring nine out of the 31 stories in one go. Then it was my turn.

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