Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"The Resignation" by Premchand - मुंशी प्रेमचंद (1924-translated from Hindi by Neelam Kumar)

Some time later in the year, probably starting July 1, I am going to devote at least six weeks to short stories by authors from the Indian Subcontinent. This is a vast field little explored in the book blog or literary web page world.   Premchand  (the pen name for Munshi Premchand-  born in Lamhi, India -1880 to 1936) is considered one of the founders of modern Hindustani literature, having published numerous novels and over 250 short stories in  Hindi.  He also translated western literary works into Hindi.  (There is a good article on him here).

"The Resignation" is a very entertaining story that begins with these lines:  "An office clerk is a dumb creature".  The narrator tells us that if you insult a coolie he will throw off his load and walk away, reprimand a beggar and he will walk away, and even an abused donkey will kick back.  An office clerk, however, will take any form of abuse from his master and smile through it.  The story tells us of the life of a clerk named Lala Fatechand, he was a failure at everything, he had only daughters.  At age 32 his health was already ruined.   He goes to work at  900 AM and returns at 600 PM and he lacks the courage to go out at night.  His whole life revolves around his office.  He was constantly in fear of losing his job.  He has no interest in religion, the poor, the arts, literature, sports, or movies.  One night something very unusual happens.  A messenger shows up from his office telling him to come into work to take care of an urgent matter.  His wife tells him don't go in they ask too much from you.  They fight over it and he goes in telling her his job could be at stake.  When he gets to the office the office peon tells him to hurry into the boss's office as he may be mad it took him so long to get there.  The boss demands to know why he took so long to get there.  When the clerk tries to explain the boss says he is lying and threatens to box his ears.  When the clerk argues the boss threatens to flog him.  Now the story turns interesting.  The clerk can only take so much and everyone who has ever worked for an idiot they hated will love the close of the story.

I read this story in an excellent anthology Our Favourite Indian Stories edited by Khushwant Singh and Neelam Kumar. 

Mel u

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