Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Satyajit Ray's Stranger: Stories

Stranger: Stories is a collection of 19 short stories and a short novel by Satyajit Ray. Gopa Majumdar has translated them into English. This is really reading meant for children, but when has that deterred me?
Most of these stories, as Majumdar says, have a supernatural element running through them. Though the stories are not scary, they are filled with strange happenings – hence the name.
The short novel Fotikchand, the story of a kidnapped boy who suffers from amnesia, is perhaps the weakest in the book. Long passages seem to be included in this novel for some strange reason. Perhaps, Ray did not mean for it to be a pure thriller.
The stronger stories have only a few characters and end with a neat twist. But in many stories, characters pop up without any major attempt on the part of the author to provide them with character. Mostly, they are used merely as devices to further the plot.
Many of these stories have children as main characters. Some of these are formulaic – meaning they follow the same path, ending with an inexplicable, mysterious happening, which is often logical only within the premises of the story.
What is appealing is the simplicity of the stories. I wanted them to be complex, but Ray, who was as complex as filmmakers get, shuns this quality as a short story writer. May be he did this because he was writing for children. While this collection acquaints us with Ray’s versatility and interest in various fields, it is not a testimonial to his writing skills.
The story titled Stranger was made into a film Agantuk, Ray’s last.