Coming from a literary family, Hajra Masroor and her sister Khadija have been referred to as the Brontë sisters of Urdu fiction. While Khadija was known for her novels, Hajra was a writer of short fiction and plays. A new translation of a collection of Hajra Masroor’s work, The Monkey’s Wound and Other Stories, by translator Tahira Naqvi, now gives English readers an opportunity to read eighteen of her stories, all centered around the hardships of being a woman in pre-Partition India and the new state of Pakistan. Masroor lived from 1929 to 2012 and started writing in the early 1940s, several years before Partition.
The first story in Jamil Jan Kochai’s newest collection has an interesting title and premise. “Playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” leads The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories. But what starts as a story of a young Afghan-American man buying the latest installment of the stealth video game becomes an exploration of Afghanistan, how its borne the brunt of generations of imperial and geopolitical conflict—and how that history is etched on its people.
Osamu Dazai is one of Japan’s most celebrated modern writers. He was born in 1909, at the end of Japan’s era of rapid modernization known as the Meiji Period. He began writing as a high school student, moved by the suicide of the great Japanese short story writer, Ryonosuke Akutagawa in 1927.
For such a small girl, this dignified-sounding name was certainly somewhat startling. But even more surprising was her temperament. Until something was broken, she did not believe in fixing it. For one, at such a young age, she took care of a couple of children as if she were a mother. And, on top of that, as a bonus, her mother would beat her up. Being the oldest might have many advantages but, in Chandangauri’s share, there had only been disadvantages. Her mother always gave her the last and the smallest portion of food. It was good that Chandan was second to none. So, when Ma wandered away, Chandan would force a bit out of everyone else’s portions by yelling at someone, or making another cry, or threatening another sibling. Otherwise, the poor one would have been mired in misfortune.
The prominent Afghan-American writer Jamil Jan Kochai, author of 99 Nights in Logar, is also well-known for his stories published in magazines and journals like The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and Zoetrope. Now some of these have been compiled in The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories, bringing them and others together in one collection. Kochai’s writing is graceful all while tackling subjects like war and occupation and how families suffer from them, both in Afghanistan and overseas.
The most substantial selection in English of short stories by Dhumketu, a pioneer of the short story form in Gujarati literature, is brought together in this new translation by Jenny Bhatt. Dhumketu, the pen-name of Gaurishankar Govardhanram Joshi, was a prolific writer in the first half of the 20th century, producing 500 short stories, over 35 novels and several plays. He also published travelogues, essays, translations and literary criticism.
One of Korea’s most renowned 20th century authors, Pak Kyongni often wrote stories set in the aftermath of the war and during the several military dictatorships. Pak passed away in 2008, but her work has been revived in English with a recent collection in translation, The Age of Doubt. These seven stories are all set in the 1950s and ’60s, a far cry from the glitz and glamor of modern-day Seoul. Each of the seven stories, furthermore, is translated by a different translator. While the stories differ, and not just in translator, a similar sense of darkness pervades all of them.