Madhulika Liddle's Reviews > The Best Asian Short Stories 2017

The Best Asian Short Stories 2017 by Monideepa Sahu
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Several years back, I was talking to a European journalist who’d travelled fairly extensively across Asia. During our conversation, she said, “One thing that strikes me as a big difference [between Asia and Europe] is the emphasis on family here. Back home, once you grow up and move out of your parents’ home, there’s only occasional contact. Here, family is very important.”

The Best Asian Short Stories echoes that sentiment in many, many stories. In some way or the other, both good and bad. There is the mother visiting her son in Tokyo and slowly beginning to adjust to an alien lifestyle in Geetanjali Shree’s March, Ma and Sakura; there are the horrified parents, trying desperately to break up their son’s ill-advised (to their way of thinking) marriage to an American divorcee in Soniah Kamal’s Jelly Beans. There are mothers: the frighteningly biased and cruel stepmother of Farah Ghuznavi’s Big Mother; the self-sacrificing mother who hides her poverty from her son in Park Chan-Soon’s Ladybugs Fly From the Top; and the unforgettable Samar, fleeing war-torn Aleppo with her ten-year old son in Amir Darwish’s Samar. There is love and affection, but in equal measure (perhaps more) there are the other things that make families: the rifts, the anger, the hatred that festers in us but which is mellowed by the ingrained belief of blood being thicker than water, and family being paramount. There is nostalgia, there are the warnings passed on, born of experience, to the younger generation. There are chilling secrets that stay hidden for years before bursting forth.

Not that family is all the theme there is to these stories. There are others, very different ones: a Brit expat in Thailand, with a trophy wife in tow, discovers he’s accidentally bought himself a yakuza in Mithran Somasundrum’s darkly hilarious The Yakuza Under the Stairs. A poor schoolboy finds himself in a tight spot while trying to smuggle matches in Farouk Gulsara’s Damp Matches. And, in the vivid and almost lyrical Free Fall in a Broken Mirror (Hisham Bustani), a woman expected to stay veiled all her life tries desperately to break out—to let her spirit free.

It is hard to rate an anthology, and that too one with so many stories: some will appeal more to a reader and some less. For me, too, some stories stood out with the sheer brilliance of their storytelling, their language, and their appeal to the heart (these include the ones I’ve mentioned above, though there are others too that I liked a lot). Some stories were a little less appealing. A handful, it seemed, had escaped editing or proofreading and had typos that got in the way of my enjoyment of them. On the whole, though, this was a collection I liked: a varied bunch of stories, in varied styles, and presenting an intriguing picture of the diverse nature of Asia, its cultures and societies and values.
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Reading Progress

February 15, 2018 – Started Reading
February 15, 2018 – Shelved
February 22, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Faizan (new)

Faizan Seem interesting,, How long is it ?

Madhulika Liddle About 440 pages.

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