Editor's Note

Charming style

Print edition : July 22, 2016

IT was in the mid-1980s, when I was working with Cre-A Publications, that I first came across Expectation and the Event by Ammani Ammal. We had commissioned Chitti and Sivapathasundaram to trace the history of the Tamil short story and they turned in a well-researched, comprehensive manuscript. They had elaborated on the significance of this story by excerpting a few paragraphs from it. I was struck by the charming style and the fluidity of the prose.

Almost 25 years later, when this book took shape, it was one of the first stories I decided to hunt down, so deep was the impression it had made on me. At the U.V. Swaminatha Iyer Library, I found the issue of Viveka Bodhini that featured the story. But the beige pages of the magazine were brittle, crumbling under my hands. Luckily, the librarian, a lover of books, was convinced of the importance of the project. He graciously allowed me to photocopy the story, for which I am eternally grateful.

This remarkable story, a truly pioneering effort, definitely had a hand in shaping the Tamil short story. It is unique in more ways than one. Conforming to the idea of the modern short story, it picks up a single crisis and treats it with great precision. But by structuring it like a parable, it cleverly retains the vast passage of time within the story, overturning the ideal or prescribed norm of the short story. In the last couple of paragraphs it suddenly and spontaneously departs from the conventionalities of narration and locates the story in a contemporary time frame and social context. The organic fusion of all these elements into a seamless whole reveals the deft hand of a writer who had clearly mastered the form.

According the right chronological position to this story was of utmost importance. That it became a springboard for revisiting the origins of the Tamil short story was a happy coincidence. Dilip Kumar, Editor, The Tamil Story.