During the Journey and Other Stories

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Author: Sethu, Publisher: Lifi Publications,
(pp 182, ISBN: 9382536647, Rs 180)

This anthology of 15 short stories represents a reflective beauty of modern Malayalam fiction. In this, author Sethu conjures up existential situations to delve into human psyche to explore rare insights. The stories in this collection, which are translated from Malayalam, prove the principle that a short story at its best is closer to poetry than fiction. Sethu in certain plot leaves a vacuity to readers in form of an ambiguity, but more of a thinking space. Experience it in the opening story A Man From Far-away.

Sethu’s genre is not a mystery kind. But he continually attempts to leave something to readers in every story, giving everyone a chance for a ‘guess who’ moment. In the story An April Summer, the narrator mentions no word about where an old village man and his niece are heading to in the torrid summer heat around a city. It is, however, revealed after reaching the story midway that they are going to a hospital. But there is just a faint hint of the purpose of their hospital visit. Sethu’s story telling technique is defined to be giving importance to stories, not to a suggestive conclusion.

Also, narrated in a strange and conjecture tone is the title story During the Journey, which is about two gentlemen, one aged professor and a young man, who meet in a train journey, share a same compartment and exchange their life experiences.

Saying that a lady is expected in his compartment, the professor shares the young man a sad story about his daughter who died at 12 years of age. When a lady boarded the train to meet the profession in the compartment, there was a sort of déjà vu between them showing that they have met somewhere before. At such juncture, Sethu leaves the situation to readers to guess who the lady is—the professor’s dead daughter? Sethu is winner of Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award in 2007 for his work Adayalangal and his other distinguished works like Pandavapuram and Pediswapnangal have also bagged Kerala Sahitya Akademi Awards in 1982 and 1978.

–Jyaneswar Laishram

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