Thursday, 31 March 2016

Review: Matchbox Stories by Ashapurna Debi.

Book: Matchbox

Author: Ashapurna Debi

Translated By: Prasenjit Gupta

Pages: 278

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 4 days

Plot Summary: Not applicable since this is a short-stroy collection.

A stalwart among Bengali writers, Ashapurna Debi (1909–95) was one of those rare authors able to render the voice of an entire culture, to capture its nuances and most abiding traditions with startling precision and formidable insight. 

Each of the twenty-one stories in Matchbox, carefully selected from Ashapurna Debi’s extensive body of work and brilliantly translated from Bengali to retain the original flavour of the language and Debi’s style, highlights the tensions inherent in a society of close-knit and interdependent families.
In ‘Poddolota’s Dream’, a young girl returns to the scene of a harrowing childhood, magnanimous and victorious for reasons quite her own; in ‘Grieving for Oneself’, a midnight scare shows an ailing man precisely how he fits into the world he has worked his life to build; in ‘Glass Beads Diamonds’, a woman attends a wedding reception at her estranged in-laws’, bearing a gift that has cost her far too much. In other stories, a family rues an unexpected disappearance of one of their own, two friends come to terms with a lost friendship, and a couple’s relationship is interrupted the sudden appearance of an old flame. 
Written with singular insight, often shocking and always compelling, the stories in Matchbox reveal in brilliant sparks the universal verities embedded within narrow domestic walls and present a literary genius at work.

General Thoughts:  Pretty much every single person in my extended family and read and adored Ashapura Debi's works. And she is one author who came highly recommended from so many Bengali people in my life. Sadly, translations of her work are not widely found. I spotted this book on Amazon a few weeks ago and squealed with delight and added it to my cart almost immediately. I am so happy to have finally read Ashapura Debi and I can't wait to read more from her! 

Things I Loved: 

1. The writing, the simplicity of it and it's rhythm and elegance is something I enjoyed a lot. 

2. I loved, loved, loved the author's insight into human nature and it's intricacies. This is clearly the work of a sharp mind and a keen observer. 

3. The range of these stories are pretty wide and diverse. We have rural and village stories and also stories set in the cities with urban concerns. We also have most stories from a female perspective and then we find stories told from a man's voice. And the author manages to do justice to both genders. 

4. So many stories have an unexpected ending and a slight twist in the tale, which is something I always enjoy. 

5. My absolute favourite thing about this collection of short-stories is the unflinching honesty with which the author talks about family, grief, relationships and love. There is no over sentimentality or emotionality in these tales and I found that both surprising and wonderful. She really is miles ahead of her times. Even though she talks of home and family life, there isn't an iota of unnecessary melodrama in any of these stories. 

6. The characters in these stories are so beautifully crafted and fleshed out, that even though the stories are short and fleeting, you will remember these people. 

7. I liked most of these stories...almost all of them, which doesn't happen often with short story collections.

8. None of these stories seemed like more of the same thing, they were varied and you can read them one after the other and not feel like the themes are being repeated. 

9. There are so many strong, independent and proud women in these pages and that is always a delight to read. 

10. There are also several stories about older people and how lonely and sad and melancholic the golden years can be for a person. Even when surrounded by family, some people can feel so alone and unwanted and not important anymore. 

Rating: 4.5/5 

Loved this book and I highly recommend it! 

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