Book Review: Unravelling: A dozen short stories

Reviewed by  Naina Dey

Unravelling: A dozen short stories
Author: Paramita Mukherjee Mullick
Publisher: Story Mirror
₹  150/-
Pages: 69, (paperback), 2023
ISBN 978-81-19445-03-5

The short story in the present day is a fusion of varied and complicated themes due to the increasing complexities in the life of the modern man. In fact, the propensity to produce more short stories than novels has elicited a fair amount of criticism. The eminent writer and critic Pramatha Choudhury had once remarked: 
      The reason why the writers of this age prefer to compose short stories is because our lives and minds are so uninteresting and so little happen in them, and whatever happens is so commonplace that one cannot extract from them ingredients of any great epic… In this society, what is found, and is found in a large measure, is food for the short story… Fears-hopes, fervor-disillusionment, devotion-hatred-compassion-cruelty, love-jealousy, heroism-cowardice, in one word, whatever this human life is composed of, are found as miniatures in this society.
(Translation mine)
Paramita Mukherjee Mullick
However, it is precisely the lack of variety in middle-class society that makes the short story a microcosm of the modern stream-of-consciousness novel.

As someone brought up on a conventional diet of O’Henry and Maupassant, Paramita Mukherjee Mullick acknowledges the influence of these great masters on Unravelling:A , her debut book of short stories. A slim volume of twelve stories, the book claims to have taken direct inspiration from the author’s own life’s experiences and observation of people and incidents around her. Paramita turns these seemingly trivial incidents into stories that are at once quirky and commonplace. Beginning with the story of the dead old man paying a doctor in silver for his services, to the humorous story of Pacha, the cook who sets out as a first time flyer from Delhi only to find himself back at the place from where he had set off, Unravelling presents life and its strange vicissitudes. “The Dazzling Light” and “And She Was There” are stories of simple faith in the divine that works miracles for the protagonists. The stories are diverse in theme, thus offering a prismatic view of the myriadness of daily life. As the author says in the Preface: 
Naina Dey
Unravelling” fitted in my thoughts of unravelling bits and pieces of my life. All the stories here are taken from life and are true stories. Like Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction”.

Like many well-written volumes of short stories that have appeared in recent years, the language of Unravelling tends to be simple, and there is almost no attempt at experimentation in form or language. In her attempt to present a true picture of life, the author has undertaken no superficial exertion to present outlandish, exotic scenes and people. The author shows sensitivity in her portrayal of characters, and though her stories are centred around seemingly ordinary occurrences, there is nothing of the drabness of an opulent middle-class daily routine.

Already an acclaimed poet, Paramita Mukherjee Mullick makes her debut foray into the field of short fiction with Unravelling, that one can wrap up in a single sitting. While there are unsettling stories like “The Blue Light” and “One More Step And”, there is also humour in “The First Time Flyer” and “Working From Home”. In short, Unravelling is a little book of engrossing anecdotal tales.

Bio: Dr. Naina Dey is a widely anthologised critic, translator and creative writer. She has authored numerous literary and academic articles in noted journals, books and newspapers. Her books include Macbeth: Critical Essays, Edward the Second: Critical Studies, Real and Imagined Women: The Feminist Fiction of Virginia Woolf and Fay Weldon, Representations of Women in George Eliot’s Fiction, Macbeth: Exploring Genealogies and three books of poetry titled Snapshots from Space and Other Poems, Homing Pigeons and sundry stuff and Crimson Corset: poems on love. Her translations include Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury’s “Gupi Gain O Bagha Bain”, and One Dozen Stories.

She was awarded the “Excellence in World Poetry Award, 2009 by the International Poets Academy, Chennai and was among a team of young Indian writers felicitated jointly by Sahitya Akademi and Visva-Bharati University in 2010. She is functioning as member of editorial board of several literary bodies and is currently Eastern Zonal Secretary of The Shakespeare Society of India, New Delhi. She is concept creator of literary and artistic organ Chamunda’s Dream.

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