Spring of short stories

Navtej Sarna's tales are a rare combination of economy of style and attention to detail

Winter Evenings

Navtej Sarna

Rupa Publication

Rs.350

Pg 148

The title of the book may be Winter Evenings, but the stories that its pages contain are crisp and fresh as a spring morning. The words flow freely, easily in Navtej Sarna's stories; nothing is laboured or forced.

An important aspect that is often ignored while writing short stories is the economy of style. But Sarna scores fully here; the stories are short—19 of them spanning just 134 pages.

What really impresses the reader beyond the brevity and the deceptive simplicity of the plots is the perceptive, astute manner in which the stories are written. The attention to detail is something to marvel at and the keen observation on display never becomes heavy or laborious, as is often seen with Indian writers writing for a western audience. Coupled with the short crispness of the stories, this becomes a rare combination. There is thankfully no attempt to impress, no failed attempt at intellectualism or to deliver a punch that lacks impact.

So if you have a materialistic couple in Delhi who cover their emotional hurts with the flash of money, there is an Indian woman in Paris given to adultery, a stickler-to-rules bureaucrat delightfully letting go in a European casino, a young painter relying on the leftover paints of a dead man and his ambitions of a masterpiece, and the ghosts of 1984 returning to haunt a Sikh matriarch—beautiful vignettes of life that keep the reader hooked, eager to read the next one.

Once or twice, the stories do get intensely personal, leaving the reader a little clueless, as in the case of Half Way Home, but that may just add to the wonder for some.

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