Before all the glitz and glamour of becoming a best-selling author, and before his power moves in the publishing industry as head of Penguin in India and Canada, there was something David Davidar excelled in―scouting around for new talent and honing them to achieve glory.
With A Case of Indian Marvels, Davidar is back to brass tacks. In case the superlative in the name was not enough, the subtitle is succinct enough: ‘Dazzling stories from the country’s finest new writers’. Davidar and his team at Aleph set out to compile an anthology of Indian writers from the Gen Z and the millennials, long-listing and then short-listing stories in a process he compares with the multiple distillation process a ‘sublime’ Goan feni goes through.
The resultant 40 under 40 feature authors just bubbling under and have started getting talked about, or those whose talent is just about coming to fruition, getting a book contract or having their first book just out. This includes known names like Prayag Akbar, Meena Kandaswamy and Kanishk Tharoor, and a host of promising ones from across the country we will be hearing a lot more of in the years to come.
Davidar says his aim was to put together short stories that “reflect the country’s ethos” and one can agree with him when he says “every one of them does that exceptionally well”. In an era where historical non-fiction, reimagined or otherwise, is ruling the roost, this collection of short stories assures that Indian fiction is still alive and kicking.
The range of subjects, and the incisiveness with which they approach certain subjects, give us an insight into the contemporary Indian society and its polychotomous melting pot as well as the ease with which the new-gen is dealing with it. They run the whole gamut, from the heart-wrenching opener ‘Alligator of Aligarh’ by S.M. Gautam (made me rush to google what else he’s written), which brings together topics as diverse as casteism and political myopia with wildlife trafficking, to one-too-many touching upon the present climate of intolerance like ‘Current Climate’ by Aravind Jayan and the ‘Great Indian Tee and Snakes’ by Kritika Pandey.
Forbidden love, futurism, tribal rights, women’s empowerment, fabulism, dystopia, satire―they all come together in pocket dynamites of prose that pull you into their enthralling journeys. Davidar should be equally proud of this compilation as he must be with his other seminal achievements.
A Case of Indian Marvels
Edited by David Davidar
Published by Aleph
Pages 390; Price Rs999 (hardbound)