Domains of Fear & Desire

by U. Memon,
ISBN: 0920661211

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Brief Reviews - Fiction
by Joyce Marshall

A COLLECTION of modem stories written originally in Urdu, selected by Muhammad Umar Memon and rendered into clean, clear English by a variety of translators, Domains of Fear and Desire (TSAR, 272 pages, $15.95 paper) is a real find - strong, vivid stories that plunge us without preparation or any sort of guidance into a society that we may not know but which we immediately accept and even understand. Only rarely, as with Parveen Sarwar's "Hearth and Home," a perhaps overly symbolic political story about the troubled birth of Bangladesh, did I wish that I remembered more recent history than I do. But my memory caught up with me as I read, and by the time I reached the tragic ending all mysteries and uncertainties had been solved, a tribute to the force of the writing.

There is considerable thematic variety in the selection, of a more personal than overtly political character; and though Memon claims that the choice is individual and not intended to be in any sense exemplary, a good range of modem and postmodern literary methods is represented. It would be invidious to name favourites since I enjoyed all of these stories in one way or another. I'll just say that I particularly enjoyed "The Beggar Boy" and "The Needy," by Hasan Manzar and lkramullah, respectively, two sensitive stories about beggars; Quadratullah Shahab's "The Plague in Jammu,"a penetrating study of a boy adrift in a tragic adult world that he attempts to bend to his own experience and needs; and "Hyena's Laughter," by Qurratulain Hyder, the one story in the group that includes some "European" characters, which portrays a young woman caught between two conflicting ways of life, neither of which she can escape and neither of which she more than dimly comprehends.


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