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The Train That Had Wings

Selected Stories of M. Mukundan

Subjects: Asian Studies, South/Southeast Asia
Hardcover : 9780891480907, 152 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, January 2005
Paperback : 9780891480914, 152 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, January 2005

Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities / Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program
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A collection of story-vignettes by one of India’s best contemporary authors


The Train That Had Wings presents modern life in Kerala in terms of a shared but tragically compromised humanity. Mukundan dares to look beneath the routines and facades of everyday life in order to probe depth of sin, greed, and hypocrisy but also to rediscover what brings joy and hope.Sixteen short story translations and a critical introduction, offering examples of Mukundan's realistic, existentialist, psychedelic, and parabolic stories, show his range and talent for the very short story. If Hawthorne wrote “twice told tales,” Mukundan writes half-told tales, stories that jump in the middle, stomp around for just a minute, and leap away almost before the reader can settle in. Half-told, but a powerful and infectious half.

M. MUKUNDAN is one of the most successful modernist authors in Malayalam literature. He has acquired a considerable following among the literati and the general populace of Kerala, a small state of palm trees, trading ports, and paddy fields in southwestern India. Mukundan is best known for his compelling descriptions of life in the culturally heterogenoeous small former French colony called Mahe in present-day Kerala. His most beloved works are his novels—On the Banks of the Mayyazhi River, God’s Mischief, and The Lamentations of Kesavan. But for experiments with language, images, and style, Malayalam literature is indebted to Mukundan’s short stories.
Donald R. DAVIS Jr. is Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

"M. Mukundan is easily one of the finest story-tellers in India today.  He has learnt his narrative art as much from Salinger, Calvino, Borges, and Marquez as from Panchatantra, Kathasaritsagar, Vikramaditya Tales, and the Jatakas and combines the magic of both in his short stories.  This meticulous choice of stories from Mukundan in a sensitive translation by Donald R. Davis Jr. reflects the range and variety of this Malayalam author's thematic concerns and philosophical preoccupations that have their roots in the moods and moors of the 1960s and 1970s where existentialism and political radicalism had their heyday in Indian life and letters, of anonymity and identity, of claustrophobia and morbidity, of the dehumanizing hegemony of the encounters of different worlds and different states of being, of cruelty, sin, indifference, and death.  The stories are full of intense narrative moments, of the dark drama of the soul, of emotions in the raw, of the irrational that suddenly erupts into our otherwise drab and humdrum lives.  Mukundan's ways of transcending commonsense and breaking the barrier of conventional realism are a fascinating as his racy language and cryptic expressions, his translucent expositions and polysemic denouements.
-K. Satchidanandan, Secretary of the Sahitya Akademi, poet, editor, and author of Imperfect and Other New Poems.