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Book Review: Trail of Love and Longings

September 21, 2022 | By

In Trail of Love and Longings, a collection of short stories, Amita Ray presents the diverse, riveting trajectory of the emotions of her protagonists — each short story is a snapshot of our familiar everyday lives. A book review by Lopamudra Banerjee.

Trail of Love and Longings (short stories)

Trail of Love and Longings by Amita Ray

Trail of Love and Longings (Paperback)
Author: Amita Ray
Publisher: Authorspress, Delhi, India
Pages: 123

Reading short stories, to my understanding, has always meant immersing myself in the smorgasbord of emotions and myriad nuances of fictional lives within the short, yet significant periphery of those few pages in which the stories are housed. Being a quintessential Bengali fed on a rich diet of short stories in my very own language Bengali, especially penned by Rabindranath Tagore (in his magnum opus ‘Galpaguchchho’), Saratchandra, Manik Bandyopadhyay and Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Tagore’s words about the world of short stories: ‘shesh hoiya o hoilo na shesh’, has resonated me with its unique concoction of meaning. That the essence of the story, the metaphorical truth of the characters’ lives lingers in our psyche as readers much after the stories attain their closures in the structural sense, define the meaning and significance of short stories in my own mindscape. In British literature, the advent of classic short story writers like Guy De Maupassant, O Henry, Anton Chekov, D.H. Lawrence et al has also touched upon not only the immediate physical reality of the protagonist’s inner and outer worlds, but also emphasized on grasping and understanding of the metaphorical truths of their lives, their consciousness, beyond the surface reality of the protagonists.

While reading some of the beautifully penned, emotionally rich short stories by Amita Ray, author, translator, academic in her collection aptly titled ‘Trail of Love and Longings’, this urge to go back and touch the skin and flesh of the stories, the characters, both human and animal, real and surreal came and lingered, with an almost haunting propensity. These are some real-life characters originating from the rich, emotional consciousness of the author whose journeys, both physical, chronological and linear as well as non-linear, metaphorical and symbolic, move us, evoke nuanced feelings of humanity within us, enlighten our consciousness as readers.

As a writer endowed with what I would say “an innate Bengali consciousness”, Ray’s sensibilities in developing her characters, mostly from the urban mindscape of Kolkata/Bengal, and also sometimes from the semi-urban settings of Bengal, come across in her beautiful, almost effortless way of depicting the various shades, hues and nuances of their personas. As a storyteller, she appears unique and remarkable because she not only records or documents their tales but tells those tales with distinct perceptiveness of the society and surroundings of which they are a part of.

Renowned academician and scholar Bashabi Fraser, in her foreword to the collection of short stories, writes about this very ‘distinctive perceptiveness’ in Ray’s narratives in a very apt, succinct analysis: “This story world is not the offshoot of the imagination, but is based on the feeling of ‘having been there’ which validates them….when the world is moving through inexplicable situations, stories like Ray’s make the unreachable possible, a love where love, compassion, kindness and generosity still mean something in human society where the bonds created by relationships are all that knit our sanity into a comprehensible whole.” This erudite and sensitive observation of Dr. Fraser about these stories and also Ray’s writing also speaks poignantly about how the author explores multifaceted human emotions in close proximity to the surroundings, which gives the stories their unique edge.

Speaking about particular stories in the collection Trail of Love and Longings, some stories including the very first one, ‘The Divine Will’, ‘A Happy Family’, ‘Gitanjali’ and ‘Mr. and Mrs. Chatterjee’ touched the chords of the heart deeply, intensely, depicting the apparently known, relatable protagonists in familiar settings, yet the magic of her storytelling lies in the painstaking craft in her fictional presentation, where a sparkling chunk of truth discovered in the protagonist’s lives become our own.

In stories like ‘Promita’s Lover’, she creates remarkable characters like Stalin and Promita, flawed and idiosyncratic, yet the scintillating truths and revelations of their lives in which echoes of the classic Robert Browning poem ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ reverberate from the void, bring us readers face-to-face with Ray’s power in understanding the intricacies of human psyche.

In stories such as ‘The Grey Lady’ and ‘Taming of the Cat’, her storytelling depicts a supernatural figure and an animal protagonist respectively, reflecting on yet another world which seems as real, palpable and moving as that of the seemingly mundane human world.

As a translator of classic fiction, I had first discovered Amita Ray’s ‘Kheer-er Putul’ originally penned by Abanindranath Tagore, translated as ‘The Doll of Condensed Milk’, and another gem of hers, ‘Treats in Translation’, her English translation of a rich assortment of classic short stories of Bengal. Even as a translator, her prowess as a storyteller that came out in the meticulous details portrayed by her didn’t escape my eyes as a reader. It is the same prowess of storytelling that is very much apparent in this beautiful collection in which Ray presents the diverse, riveting trajectory of the emotions of her protagonists presented in each short story as snapshots of our familiar everyday lives.

These intense, thoughtful narratives will surely be a delight to read for lovers of short stories all around the world.

Trail of Love and Longings (Paperback)

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Murmurs: An Abstract Tapestry That Succeeds in Keeping the Reader Hooked

‘An Indepth and Perceptive Study of Satyajit Ray’s Heroes & Heroines’

Odisha, Through Its Short Stories

Lopamudra (Lopa) Banerjee is an author, editor, poet and writing instructor staying in Dallas, Texas with her family, but originally from Kolkata, India. She has a Masters in English with thesis in Creative Nonfiction from University of Nebraska and also Masters in English from University of Calcutta, India. Apart from writing and editing some critically acclaimed books and being awarded with the Reuel International Prize for Poetry (2017) and for Translation (2016), she has dabbled in all genres of writing, from journalism and content writing to academic essays and fiction/poetry. She has been interviewed in various e-zines, literary blogs and also at TV (Kolkata) and at radio stations in Dallas, Texas. Very recently, she has been part of the upcoming short film 'Kolkata Cocktail', a docu-feature based on poetry, but her love for writing feature stories go back to her journalism days when she interviewed people from all walks of life and wrote essays and articles based on them. She loves performing poetry as spoken words art and has performed in various forums in India and USA.
All Posts of Lopamudra Banerjee

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