Stories from Beyond the Backyard
Twenty translators work on the stories by 29 Telugu writers selected for publishing by Sahitya Akademi; the introduction by editors throwing light on the history of short fiction by Telugu women writers is a worthy edition to the interesting book, ‘Beyond the Backyard…’
"Beyond the Backyard - Telugu Women Writers' Contemporary Stories in English', edited by renowned writers like CLL Jayaprada, P Satyavati, V Prathima and published by Sahitya Akademi has twenty nine stories by twenty nine senior and not so senior story writers.
The book is an outcome of the creative effort of twenty translators.
This book is not just about women's issues, but the issues tied with the wide gamut of socio-cultural-politico-religious domains.
This book proves that contemporary Telugu women writers are not far behind in the literary scene but are forging ahead to demystify any wrong notions about their talent and creativity and that Telugu women writers observe the world keenly, assimilate new found theories in selecting new themes, to develop new structural nuances befitting their narratives.
The writers featured here are accomplished practitioners of this craft of story writing and their stories of contemporary times needed to be translated into English as a definitive step towards gaining global readership because 'Translation' is such a tool that links people, cultures, literatures of the world in a global network, a much needed cultural synthesis , that which the world always requires.
Indian writing in regional languages continues to suffer the fate of anonymity in the west, but when showcased in English translation get phenomenal recognition.
The lucid, effortless yet effective use of English in translation by adroit translators added to the flow of story- telling in almost all the stories of this book, barring one or two stories that read stilted and laboured in translation.
To retain the feel and flavour of the original, few Telugu terms are used verbatim, which do not pose a problem to an uninterrupted reading by bi-lingual readers of Telugu and English and others could easily refer to the footnotes.
The titles of few stories retain their appropriate English translation, few seem retitled to suit the translated version and the target readers in English.
'For the Sake of a Bond' by Aruna Pappu has a touching sense of loneliness of a man whose wife walked out on him and their autistic son - how he succeeded in bringing a balance into their lives by accepting the situation and learnt to handle the testing tribulations of bringing up a differently abled child, how this story is told in first person narrative of a lady psychologist is touchingly poignant. It is interesting that the story ends not in a 'run of the mill' way.
'The Unknown' by Indraganti Janakibala is about Adilakshmi, a mother who despairs, fears and detests the very concept of homosexuality to such an extent, she degenerates into a helpless person who feels suicide as the only escape from the situation, but how counseling helps her cope with the idea of her daughter's same sex relation is conveyed well. This story deals with an important aspect of present-day society that is fraught with homophobic hatred and anxiety.
'Magic City' by P Satyavathi is a story that spans three generations of women depicting complex situations they find themselves in.
The writer's aim is to send across the message about suppressed and marginalised women caught in patriarchal societal structures who after breaking free look for their space and identity and establish a new paradigm.
But even in defiance they can get caught in temptations and get jammed between regressive and progressive ideas.
'Magic City' is a story to reckon as different among others in the treatment of story line and its characters.
There are other stories, which deserve a special mention - as they effectively deal with human exploitations, existential fight that transforms women from victims to survivors to saviors – 'The Discoloured', 'Rayakka's Royalty', 'Deep in her Heart', 'Kaalaavu', 'Blessed be our Prosperous Cow', 'Staying with Satyam', 'Support', 'A Time Sans Stories' leave an indelible mark on the readers' mind.
The strong point of the whole collection is the diverse subjects the stories delineate. The stories prod the readers to sensitively respond and view pertinent issues with more understanding.
This inspiring volume triggers an interest in readers to know more and more about Telugu women writers who seem undaunted and very articulate in expressing their thoughts and messages, their themes and techniques.
This book has the strength to have a bearing on contemporary literature with its powerful content of fine short stories. 'Beyond the Backyard" is a truly invigorating mulligatawny of soul food.
Bold, sensitive and effective the stories leave the readers asking for more. Since this is a sort of milestone work, proof checking should have been done more carefully avoiding few conspicuous mistakes, which I am sure will be taken care of in the next edition.
The worthy and erudite introduction by the editors is like a fount of information about the book and its contents, the history of short fiction by Telugu women writers, the various stages of its growth and the trajectory of its success.
It also helps the readers discern the difficulties in bringing out a work of this kind and helps them perceive its worthiness and significance.