Chief Editor’s Note

Anil Menon

As the issue was coming together, I began to think about the common elements in the 21 contributions. I knew this was a mistake because the main thing about noticing something in a text is that one has noticed it. The noticed fact shines a light into the person, not the text. Take for instance the strange and brilliant physicist Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac and his encounter with Dostoevsky. The Russian physicist Kapitza, whom Dirac tolerated as a friend, gave him a translation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Perhaps Kapitza gave Dirac the novel because he thought his friend, raised by a tyrannical father, would connect with an author whose stories are permeated by the absence of a loving father. Dirac dutifully read the novel. Kapitza prodded him for a review. “It is nice,” said Dirac, “but in one of the chapters the author made a mistake. He describes the Sun as rising twice on the same day.”

Were Dirac to read the stories, poems and other contributions in this issue, he would perhaps notice the odd recurrences of… fish.  There’s fish in summa iru’s poem ‘[pallbearers]’, and a kingfish in Charlotte Newbury’s ‘Name Something More Tender’, and a fisherman in Marica Bodrožić’s ‘Escape Across the Danube’ and “windows full of all kinds of dead fish” in Giovanni Lucchese story ‘The Supermarket’. Oh wait. There’s also a menu item ‘sliced raw fish’ in one of the images of Soumya Mukerji’s photo-essay about her time in Japan. It’s yours for 80 ¥ (the fish, that is). There are two other (metaphorical) occurrences of fish (Alok Bhalla’s translation of Nirmal Verma’s story ‘A Separate Light’ and Manoj Rahul’s translation of Gurajada Appa Rao’s ‘Reformation’) but I can tell I’m testing your patience.

What’s with all the fish?

Nothing. The fishy connection just happens to be the dual of the same mental mechanism that led Dirac to noticing the double sunrise in Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment.  We either detect a pattern or a deviation from a pattern; that’s what it means to notice something. We may call what we notice a feature or we may call it a mistake, but it is how we connect with things. Out of an infinity of possible connections, we choose a palmful.

I mention this because we sometimes receive emails inquiring whether we do ‘themed’ issues. So far, in the ten years (or is it 100?) years we’ve been in operation, we haven’t. There is no need. Everything is already connected with everything else. One simply has to read closely enough. We can even make a game of it. What about Dostoevsky, and say, sewing machines? Well, let’s see. In Dostoevsky’s preparatory material for Crime and Punishment, there are several drawings of Sonia Marmeladova, who is forced into prostitution to support her family. Drawing #63 shows Nikolai Chernyshevsky, the radical who had proposed ‘fallen women’ be given sewing machines and with it a respectable livelihood. Dostoevsky had mocked the ‘sewing machine solution’ in his Notes from the Underground.

In any case, other than digging up such useless facts, I was casting about, desultorily and un-seriously, for a painting involving fish. There was the vague idea of creating a cover around such a painting.  Google led me to Bud James’ photograph of sewing machines which now, in an adapted form, graces this issue’s cover. Why on earth did Google come up with sewing machines? Perhaps because the first viable sewing machine (patented in 1884, but ignored until Singer’s near-identical model appeared) was invented by John Fisher.

Everything is connected to everything else. This is why we are confident the stories, poems, translations and visual feasts in this issue will connect with you. Welcome to Issue 57 of The Bombay Literary Magazine.

Table Of Contents

Fiction

M. C. Schmidt

The Dream Girls

Keerthana Jagadeesh

Father’s Art

Mandovi Menon

Watermelon For One

Translated Fiction

Giovanni Lucchese

The Supermarket

Translated from Italian by Paul Arenson

Marica Bodrožić

Escape Across the Danube

Translated from German by Aaron Carpenter

Nirmal Verma

In A Different Light

Translated from Hindi by Alok Bhalla

Gurajada Appa Rao

Reformation

Translated from Telugu by Manoj Rahul

O. V. Vijayan

Rocks

Translated from Malayalam by A. J. Thomas

E. Santhoshkumar

House of Dolls

Translated from Malayalam by Tony Xavier

Visual Narratives

Poetry

Priyam Goswami Choudhury

‘summer corpora’ and Other Poems

Translated Poetry

Miraji (Sana’ullah Daar)

The Geisha’s Songs: Selections

Translated from Urdu by Geeta Patel

Mian Mian

‘A Kind of Equanimity’ and Other Poems

Translated from Chinese by Liang Yujing

Guy Helminger

‘What Approaches’ and Other Poems

Translated from German by Delphine Lettau

Manikkavacagar

Selections from the Thiruvacagam

Translated from Classical Tamil by Priya Sarukkai Chabria and Shobhana Kumar

TRANSLATIONS (FICTION)

VISUAL NARRATIVES

Acknowledgments

Image Credits:  Old sewing machines on display at a clothing store in SoHo, NYC. Bud James Photography. The original image is reproduced here with the kind permission of Bud James. Check out Bud James’ fine art and travel photography at www.budjames.photography or follow him on Instagram at www.instagram.com/budjamesphoto.