Willing minds telling tales | Daily News


 

Willing minds telling tales

Nadine Gordimer, the Nobel Recipient in 1991, is the author of 13 novels, 10 short story collections and several non-fiction collections, all translated into many languages. The anthology of 21 short stories, edited by her, titled Telling Tales (2004). First published in Great Britain, this work brought her not only fame as an editor but also as a social reformation activist, as it triggered off into a campaign called Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). The campaign paved the way for the profits of the publication intended to go for worldwide healthcare to HIV/AIDS preventive education and for medical treatment for people living with more suffering than pandemic infection brings to the contemporary world.

As such, when the collection of stories is brought the buyer has two purposes. First, to enjoy a good collection of stories, and secondly a gift to combat the plague of our new millennium. At a glance, the reader comes to know some of the most brilliant storytellers in the world including Chinua Achebe from Nigeria, Margaret Atwood from the UK, Gabriel Garcia Marquez from Columbia, Gunter Grass from Germany, Arthur Miller from the USA and others such as Paul Theroux, John Updike andSusan Sontag around the globe.

Surrealistic tales

As a reader, I entered the cultural lives of the creative writers present in their respective works. While depicting the picture of their culture, the reader too gets the chance of knowing the types of expressions, genres and techniques utilized in storytelling.

They include parables, fantasies, anecdotes, comic tales, human interest narratives, tales packed with more dialogue than commentaries, historical, adventure tales and surrealistic tales. These, in several ways, provide the path to the study of comparative creative communication, a subject discipline that has come to stay linked to various other disciplines like anthropology and philosophy.

I felt that rarely have world creative writers of such variety and distinction appeared together in the same anthology. As the editor, Gordimer points out that their creative process captures the range of emotions and situations of the human universe, tragedy, comedy, fantasy, satire, dramas of sexual love and warfare, in different continents and cultures. The reader gets the chance to learn about others as well as others in different social contexts. Thus, the grand intention is fulfilled as the works are arranged in the alphabetical order.

The collection opens with a story by Arthur Miller titled Bull Dog.

The central experience revolves around the experience gathered by a young lad who loves dogs. He gets the chance of buying a rare kind of puppy that he brings home. But the puppy, in turn, gives way to a rare trouble to his mother who prepares a chocolate cake. The mother and the son are panic-stricken when they find that the little puppy has eaten up the whole chocolate cake. They are so frightened that they wonder what they should do.

Power of expression

They try to contact the veterinary surgeon and tries to take advice. Then they try to get the advice of other people who matter. But everything ends up or reaches a climax as they are disillusioned over the rare kind of dogs or the little bull dog.

It is a pleasing little tale that could be enjoyed by all types of readersdespite age differences. The power of expression is the mainstay in the narrative. In many ways this is a story that could enliven any reader in any culture bringing goodwill to the disaster-filled world.

Miller is more known as a dramatist. But this reveals his skill as a narratalogist.

Then the reader comes across a fascinating tale by José de Sousa Saramago titled The Centaur. Saramago is lesser known as a fiction writer though he is the recipient of the Nobel Award in Literature in 1998. He is cited as born in Portugal in 1922. Though living in Spain, he had been tutored in higher education in various seats of learning in literature. He has been a mechanic, a draughtsman, a publisher’s reader and editor cum translator.

He has written volumes of plays, essays, short stories of varying types, ten novels and has received several honours. The present story revolves around a horseman, who finds that his horse is no longer a mere animal but a divine being who transforms itself into a super horse in divinity and mythology called Centaur.

Resourceful reading

In many ways, the narrative is surrealistic. Next in the line of selection for the anthology comes Es'kia Mphahlele, a storyteller from Pretoria. The story is titled Down the Quiet Street, a narrative that revolves around a silent street in a semi suburban area in small town gradually disturbed by the various upheavals brought about caused by the trivial conflicts among the human dwellers. Everybody as dwellers and settlers in the area anticipate a peaceful climate of living, but they themselves fail to gauge where the fault lies. Most people who exhibit themselves as peace-loving individuals fail to maintain their dignity in silence.

The protagonist in the narrative loves silence, but he is surprised as to how it is disturbed. By and large, it is fascinating and resourceful reading of the four narrators namely Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Margaret Atwood and Gunter Grass. Their contributions, The Firebird’s Nest, Death Constant Beyond Love, The Age of Lead and Witness of an Era respectively need sensitive interpretation from several points of view. They are representative tales of the changing aspects of both the narrative techniques as well as the human existence. It is observed that these four stalwarts are creators par excellence, bearing insights to living conditions as well as predictions of human living.

The 21 stories are written in different voices vividly individual patterns, as unusual.

 


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