Saturday, March 4, 2017
Tragedy on a small but universal scale
Akhil sharma's story if you sing for me like that included in the 1990s section of 100 years of the best american short stories is surprising on a number of levels - first one of the few stories by a male writer from a female pov that feels lived and credible and not like a stunt. Second it's interesting to note in the intro passage that this story was rejected w form letters from a # of prominent lit mags. Do they even read what they receive? Or was there an innate bias at the time against publishing a story set in contemporary India?(today that would be a plus). Simply put the story is an older woman's look back at her married life and explaining how it is that she has never loved her husband. It's in some ways a denunciation of arranged marriages but it's much more - it's also a harrowing examination of a cold marriage that to outsider may seem a success and it's a look a the kind of oppression - not violence or crudity or deprivation but just plain dominance and the crushing of spirit - that millions of women accommodate to in order to get along and meet societal and family's expectations. In other words the story of a sad and diminished life. I don't know if women readers can embrace this story; there's a sadness and maybe an irony in that a man wrote this story about the crushing of a woman's spirit. Either way though the story stands on its own - an Indian short story version of madame Bovary or mrs dalloway - without the rebellion or tragic ending. It's tragedy on a small, but universal, stage scale - all the more intense for that.