Indian Errant

Stories by Nirmal Verma

Translated with an Introduction by Prasenjit Gupta

Prasenjit Gupta: Writings and Translations

Prasenjit Gupta’s work as a translator appears in Indian Errant, a collection of stories by Nirmal Verma, a leading writer who was awarded the Gyanpeeth and the Padma Bhushan.

The stories in Indian Errant deal with the themes of identity, dislocation, and exile. The hardcover book contains a substantial critical introduction by the translator and also includes the stories in the original Hindi in addition to the translations. The paperback edition contains a brief introduction and the stories in translation.

Nirmal Verma (1929-2005) is a giant of twentieth-century Indian letters. A pioneer of the Nai Kahani (New Story) movement in Hindi literature, his fiction explores the arid silence that lies between people who have lost faith in each other and the imaginative drought that renders it impossible for us to make moral discriminations. In 2000, he was honored with the highest award for literature in India, the Jnanpith. He published five novels, eight collections of short stories, and nine books of essays and travelogues. He was also nominated for the well-known Neustadt Award of the magazine World Literature in 1996. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan and the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship.

“To the subjects of exile, loss, and displacement, Nirmal Verma brings a uniquely tender sensibility as well as a vision that is profoundly informed by the specificities of a wider historical experience.

“This is a major new collection from one of the contemporary world’s finest writers.”

— Amitav Ghosh

He returned to the front door again. The stinging sunshine of August fell upon his eyes. His whole body dripped sweat. He sat down on his suitcase, right there on the front porch. Suddenly, he noticed some faces glancing out from the windows of the buildings across the street, looking at him. He had heard that the English people did not interfere in others’ personal affairs, but he was sitting outside the house, on the porch, where there could be no notion of privacy; and so they stared at him frankly, without embarrassment. But perhaps there was another reason for their curiosity: in a small English village community, more or less everyone knew everyone else, and he must have seemed a strange creature, not only in his appearance but also in his loosely dangling Indian suit. From his crumpled clothes and his dust and sweat-streaked face, no one could have guessed that just three days earlier he had read a paper at a conference in Frankfurt. “I look like a robbed and beaten Asian immigrant,” he thought, and suddenly stood up — as though it was easier to wait standing up. This time, without thinking, he knocked loudly on the door, and immediately stepped back flustered — as soon as he touched it the door clicked open. He heard footsteps on the stairs — and the next moment she was standing before him on the threshold.

From “A Day’s Guest” by Nirmal Verma, translated by Prasenjit Gupta. Read the story here.

Indian Errant (India: from Indialog; U.S.: from Parabaas)